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Wednesday, October 25, 2006 

Christians and the Welfare State

Last night I picked up David Kuo's new book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. The media outlets have created a firestorm around this book and Kuo has been on every political T.V. and radio talk show from "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" to "The Colbert Report" (see video here). Much of what is being reported is in an effort to do two things: 1) Make George Bush look bad and 2) Make Christians look stupid - so naturally I felt I should pick the book up and browse through it. What I found in the introduction was not the media take, but an honest assessment of Christian political engagement by a serious Evangelical thinker. So I bought the book and hopefully will write a book review/response to it soon.

One thing that has happened in my mind as I reflected on the content of Kuo's book and on this discussion about "Red Letter" and "Black Letter" Christians is that I have continually been reminded of something I heard Tony Campolo say almost 10 years ago. He was talking about poverty and the need for the Church to be proactive in helping those who need it most. He said that for too long we have allowed the government to do what the Church ought to be doing, and that is to take care of "the least of these." We have installed a "welfare state" into our government - one that allows us to stop caring about actually engaging the poor and just allowing our tax dollars to do it for us.

And in that regard, what I am thinking is that both conservatives and liberals have allowed this to persist in our thinking and to undercut the work of the Church. Conservatives have decried the "welfare state" and asked for money through Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives so they can do it themselves, not realizing that money would hang like a carrot over their heads (and not considering if it was indeed ethical to take it at all). And liberals have allowed the "welfare state" to take on some sort of cult status as a fulfillment of the "Sermon on the Mount," thus helping liberal lawmakers to keep a strangle hold on disenfranchised voters, while pushing a morally corrupt social agenda. In this paradigm, both sides of the Christian aisle (so to speak) lose and neither is found to be fulfilling the "Great Commandment" or the "Great Commission."

Jesus did not call the Church to set up secular governments that would take care of the poor. He called the Church to feed the poor and take care of widows and orphans personally. And in doing so, to spread the message that "Christ is Lord," calling men everywhere to repent and believe. A "welfare state" ends up hindering this calling and hurting everyone in the process - the poor who are caught in the cycle of poverty, the low-income families who begin to despise those who use government money while they, themselves, struggle to make ends meet, the middle class who see many examples of corruption in the welfare system and begin to foster bitterness instead of developing compassion toward those less fortunate than themselves, and the rich who can buck their responsibilities to be good citizens because they know they are the ones footing the bill for the welfare state to exist.

This might sound harsh, but I think this is where the Church finds itself in the 21st century. What we must do as a Christian people is to stop letting the politicians do for us what we, ourselves, ought to be doing. For a better, more compassionate take on this, see an excellent article by Brent Thomas at his Colossians 3:16 site entitled, "Pure and Undefiled Politics?"

"A "welfare state" ends up hindering this calling"

How, exactly, has it managed this?

Maybe you should go back and read my article more carefully, as well as Brent's commentary. Chrsitians have become lazy because the government takes care of the poor for them.

I read that. But if that's the case, it's really a problem with lazy Christians, not a welfare state. A "welfare state" does not make Christians lazy nor hinder their calling.

If anything, if a "welfare state" were as bad a thing as some Christians think, it should motivate them. All I'm saying is you can't blame the inaction of church folk on the actions of a supposed welfare state.

Dan, I certainly don't think God will excuse any of us for neglecting our duty to care for the poor, but surely one can admit that government policy influences behavior.

When government subsidizes behavior, that behavior tends to become more frequent, and when government taxes behavior, it tends to become less frequent -- which some politicians admit only selectively, such as when they argue that we should tax cigarettes to decrease their use.


That said, I'm not sure that "it's the church's job" is the best argument against (at least most, possibly all) welfare programs: "it's not the government's job" is a better argument.

I read Brent's article (permanent link here), and I agree that the church ought to do more helping those in need, not to replace the Gospel, but because we are called to feed the hungry in addition to sharing the good news about the Bread of Life.

But the truth that we as the church have the duty to care for the poor does not resonate to me as the best argument against most social welfare: the libertarian's defense of private property rights, the fiscal conservative's criticism of the waste inherent in bureaucracy, the social conservative's belief that welfare is ultimately harmful to its recipient, and even (and perhaps especially) Mark Steyn's recent argument that social welfare weakens Western civilization's verility and fecundity are all stronger arguments.


Daniel, on the dangers of letting the government dangle carrots before churches, I'd like to refer you to this blog entry by William Beck, a libertarian who doesn't beat around the bush and who often swears like a sailor.

(Like yours, his writing's hard to ignore.)

Here's the most salient section, for which the application to faith-based initiatives ought to be obvious:

"The whole idea of 'school vouchers' is an attempt to evade the fact that people in command of productivity or wealth will take some sort of active interest in its disposition; the values for which it is brought to bear. This fact is not conditioned by the authority of the disposed wealth, whether right of ownership or the presumed 'authority' of the state: the fact is that someone -- individuals or groups of them crucially distinct from the total of individuals -- will eventually act with the full effect of ownership: in the case of schools, the feds will walk in like they own the place because that will be the practical fact...

"...In education, no suggestion of dressing up transfers of stolen money -- calling it 'vouchers' -- is going to reverse or even deflect any of this. In Petrelli v. McCluskey -- and surrounding literature reaching out to edge my capacities for tragedy and disgust -- are various noise of 'solution'. The thing is simply and truly put: get all government right instantly out of the business of education.

"Do it as comprehensively as possible, diminishing arbitrary power in the matter from federal to state to local 'levels', but attacking and demolishing it everywhere in any way peacefully (naturally) possible. Do it all as quickly as possible.

"Stop this horrendous rot in so crucial a sphere of human action."
[emphasis in original]

We may be in a quandry in terms of government power: altogether dismantling things like public education and public welfare are grossly unpopular, but partial steps like vouchers may be as bad as the system they replace -- and harder to replace in subsequent steps, as the momentum for reform that dismantles usually ceases at the first step. "We've already reformed the program; leave it alone."

I ordered Ruby K. Payne's book "A Framework for Understanding Poverty". I hear it's a great help. I was doing a series on my blog about Dignity. In particular I wanted to tie in Gladwell's Broken Window theory to the concept of human dignity and the welfare mentality. But then I didn't do it.

Two points, Bubba.

You said:
"but because we are called to feed the hungry in addition to sharing the good news about the Bread of Life."

I and my church don't separate ministry to the poor from the gospel. It's not "in addition" it IS the Good News for the poor...

You also said (about welfare):

""it's not the government's job" is a better argument."

Being the small gov't type I am, I gladly admit that other orgs - especially local - can typically do a better job than gov't, that this is not always the case. I don't see anything to support the notion - in the Bible or in the Constitution - that argues welfare can't be the gov't's job if the people so decide.

As someone pointed out in this discussion: I'm just not sure that the church CAN tackle the enormous job of poverty (although, I reckon the church COULD, but doubt seriously the church WILL).

I think poverty will take many actors to eliminate or even reduce, government and church among them. In ancient Israel (D.R. should be thrilled I'm referring to "black letters"), poverty was not just addressed by private charity (almsgiving), but by a variety of structural LAWS, including the Sabbath Year, Jubilee Year, laws on gleaning, etc. Those took govt. action.

When the prophets railed against those who abuse the poor (or fail to do justice to them), they include the temple priesthood, private citizens (especially the wealthy), the Israelite monarchy, and even foreign governments. Jesus, although more than a prophet, stands in the prophetic tradition.

But in the NT, Rome was a reality that most people did not dream of changing. So, we don't find passages on Rome's responsibilities vis a vis the poor (except metaphorically in Revelation). Instead, the NT writers concentrate on the church's responsibilities in this regard because they could actually influence (we hope) the church.

In a democracy, WE are the government in a real sense. The govt. cannot wave a magic wand and end poverty. But ending poverty will take action from many sectors--including public policy. One thing I have long advocated govt. doing, similar to the programs of the New Deal during the Depression--to which I owe my existence since they allowed my grandfather to keep his family together and thus made my eventual appearance possible!, is job creation for rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We could pay for it easily by scrapping the failed Star Wars missile defense programs which waste $15 billion per year.

State universities could offer free tuition for all who qualify but are poor. This could be paid for many times over by scrapping our nuclear weapons. Since education is a proven statistical cure for poverty, this would be a major boon.

Then there's universal healthcare with single payer system. This would save billions in paperwork alone. It would also aid U.S. industries to become more competitive by eliminating the largest labor cost: employer provided healthcare. Thus, private enterprises, large and small, could compete on a more level playing field with foreign companies and afford to expand and create more jobs.

None of this stops churches from doing their part for the poor, but none of those things are the KIND of aid that churches can render.

Dan:

I and my church don't separate ministry to the poor from the gospel. It's not "in addition" it IS the Good News for the poor...

If merely ministring to people's earthly needs "IS" the Gospel itself, then John the Baptist was wrong to focus on repentence in preparation of Christ's arrival, Peter was wrong to focus likewise on repentence on the day of Pentacost, and even Christ was wrong to issue the Great Commission to make disciples rather than merely meet physical needs.


I don't see anything to support the notion - in the Bible or in the Constitution - that argues welfare can't be the gov't's job if the people so decide.

In the Constitution, the federal government simply does not have the enumerated power to provide social welfare programs; I encourage you to read this article by Walter E. Williams for a quick refresher on Article I and enumerated powers.

As for the Bible, one could simply note that Jesus is not Robin Hood, that we are commanded not to steal, and that the differences between income redistribution and outright theft are, well, thin.

If "the people" decide to trample on the rights on the few to line the pockets of the rest, they may have the political authority of the majority, but that doesn't imply they have the moral authority.


Michael, we can discuss whether the U.S. government should be spending money to insure national security and to what degree. Perhaps the need for missle defense is diminishing, what with North Korea testing its nuclear weapons and its long-range missles; and perhaps the need for our own nuclear arsenal is diminishing with Iran working so hard to join the nuclear club while it sponspors global terrorism and makes clear its intent to wipe out one of our allies; I'm not convinced of either, but we could debate that for another time.

But -- and I apologize for being blunt -- your ignorance of basic economics is breathtaking.

The net effect of government is not the creation of jobs; it "breaks even" at best. The government cannot provide anything for free, including something as cost-intensive as health care; socialized medicine thus cannot possibly make us more competitive by reducing costs, as taxpayers are paying those costs somewhere.

As Henry Hazlitt observed, most economic mistakes are made by observing the short-term effects on one group of people rather than the long term effects on all people. You see construction workers at an FDR-style make-work project and say that jobs are created, but you ignore what's not so obvious, namely the jobs that are lost because of higher taxes imposed to pay for that project. You see companies not having to note health care as an explicit expenditure, so you presume that they're becoming more competitive, but you ignore the fact that socialized medicine must be paid for someone, either by the same companies who must pay higher taxes or by individuals who thus make smaller investments to those companies or purchase fewer widgets from them.

Truly effective education, truly useful infrastructure, and the security that comes through effective police and military forces can all create an environment that is conducive to economic prosperity.

But the government doesn't create jobs, and socialism doesn't improve the economy. No group of people in the history of the world has ever taxed itself into prosperity.

Bubba, my "ignorance of basic economics" may be breathtaking. That's why I don't rely on my own stuff here. I regularly consult with people who do know economics. One of my churchmembers has a Ph.D. in economics. I also read widely--including Nobel Prize winning economists. The idea that universal healthcare would make U.S. businesses more competitive is widely shared by economists, by industry heads, and others.

And I can check real world examples in other countries very easily.

As for "missile defense" it was ALWAYS a failed project. I have 3 nuclear scientists as close friends (now scattered in different parts of the country). It never worked and had zero chance of working. It was a huge boondoggle. Further, at Reyjkavik (sp?) Gorbachev proposed to Reagan that both the USSR and the USA eliminat ALL their nuclear weapons. (Phased out with international inspections, etc.) Reagan turned it down because Gorbachev also demanded we give up the missile defense which the Soviets saw as leading to first strike--nuclear or conventional. Reagan threw away a chance for a much safer world.

The way out of the N. Korea crisis is NOT through "missile defense" which has yet to work one time in tests even when rigged. I can do the economic math on THAT one just fine.

"As for the Bible, one could simply note that Jesus is not Robin Hood, that we are commanded not to steal"

Damnation, this is a tenacious and diabolical lie of which I've grown tired.

Unless you believe that all taxation is stealing, then you do not believe that taxation is stealing. Do not offer that lie again. (With apologies for being blunt. I know I'm new to you, Bubba, but I have heard this lame argument trotted out too many times here lately.)

If you don't believe that taxation in general is stealing, then where do you get any support for the notion that this particular tax is stealing? The Bible? The Bible never says that taxation is stealing. The Constitution? The Constitution does not say that taxation is stealing.

It is a made up accusation for which there is no support.

Michael,

First, your point regarding Israel as an example of government doing welfare apart from the Church is very problematic, given that the Church was the State. It truly was a Theocracy. Thus, you can't legitimately compare the U.S. gov't to the nation of Israel, unless you are going to allow for the possibility that could establish a theocratic state, which is highly unlikely.

Second, in almost every prophetic passage regarding taking care of the poor, the prophets turned their ire toward individuals. When the prophets spoke of the nation of Israel, they were speaking of the duty of individual citizen to act, not the duty of the overall gov't. Additionally, it was the duty of the priests to make sure that the Sabbath laws, jubilee laws, etc. were followed, not the responsibility of the Kings and rulers.

I agree we are the gov't, but we also have proven that throwing more and more money toward welfare hasn't taken a dent out of poverty and in fact, it has only increased over the past few years (and we can't blame that on tax cuts, especially when we see that in the last year the gov't took in MORE money from taxes than they did before the tax cuts were instigated).

And your plans you outline only throw more money into the mix, but they don't address the key issue, which is that the welfare system actually holds people in poverty - it does not empower them to come out of it. Sure, these people are fed and clothed and given shelter, but it fosters a cycle of poverty that will eventually bankrupt the nation both monetarily and spiritually.

Gov't systems, because they cannot address spiritual needs and work individually to empower people to rise up out of poverty, are doomed to fail.

Finally, universal healthcare would be gov't bureacracy gone mad. Just ask Canadians who are now crossing the border to take American jobs in order to get American health coverage. The fact is that the $15 Billion isn't enough for everyone who desire so to go to college for free and it certainly isn't enough to move from private healthcare to universal healthcare. And not only that, the immigration problem must be fixed first. Otherwise universal healthcare would be overburdened and crushed under the weight of an influx of illegal aliens who are not paying taxes. And since we live in a capitalist system, moving to a socialist gov't policy would cripple our economy to the point that tax revenues would plummet, the welfare and universal healthcare systems would go bankrupt, and the deficit would overwhelm the country. We would be in the same crisis we still see going on in Russia, which moved quickly from a socialist ideology to a capitalistic one.

I simply think that you plan is much more naive than you can imagine. That is why it is up to Christians to do the right thing - to quit worrying about another gov't program that will eventually fail, and continue to work within the imperfect, though not the worst, economic system - capitalism.

BTW, I really think you should read David Kuo's book, Tempting Faith. He mentions many of the problems that the early compassionate conservatives saw in gov't programs and their desire to move toward a more healthy system that utilized religious charities. I think had the conservative base been more on board with those original compassionate conservatives, we would have seen a different outcome from the Bush administration.

Dan, honestly, there is a moral problem when you require certain persons to pay a higher percentage of their revenue than others on the basis of the fact that they have it to spare. That is part of the problem with the death tax - simply because rich people have a great deal of money doesn't mean you can take it from their heirs once they die. There is just something immoral about that. You can understand that, can't you?

God imposed an across the board percentage that was to be given to Him - 10%. Why did He not force men who had more to give more? Surely you get this Dan.

Michael, Milton Friedman believes that third-party payment is harming health care and advocates, not more government, but more privitaztion. He has a PhD and a Nobel Prize in economics, so I guess you should change your mind and agree with him, huh?

Or maybe we should argue the merits of the proposal, not the degrees and awards of those who support it.

Let's go back to what you propose:

You wrote that socialized medicine "would also aid U.S. industries to become more competitive by eliminating the largest labor cost: employer provided healthcare. Thus, private enterprises, large and small, could compete on a more level playing field with foreign companies and afford to expand and create more jobs."

Why don't we socialize other costs of doing business? For many companies, utilities are a pretty big expenditure, so let's provide universal, free electricity. Rent is often the biggest expense at all, so let's have the government own all property (and the means of production, while we're at it) and they can let businesses use for free the land they own.

By your "logic," such acts would reduce the businesses' costs, allow them to compete with foreign companies, and create new jobs. Right?

If not, what makes employee health care different from utilities and rent? What makes socialized medicine a good idea when socialized electricity and socialized land are ludicrous ideas?

(And, it may be worth asking, is it really the case that Europe has a competitive advantage with its socialized medicine? The United States has a higer per capita GDP than Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.)


As for missle defense, it's not clear to me that there are reasons why it would be inherently impossible; thus, past failures are hardly incontroverible proof against future success.

But something tells me you loathe the idea on principle.

There are two competing accounts of what happened between Reagan and Gorby re: missle defense -- yours, and this:

In refusing to give up missle defense, Reagan raised the bar for what the Soviets must do to remain at parity in the arms race. He in fact raised it beyond what the Soviets were technologically and economically capable of producing, thereby speeding along the Soviet collapse.

The Cold War ended shortly after Reagan's two terms of not allowing us to be cowed by the Soviets. More importantly, the good guys won, but still you write that Reagan "threw away a chance for a much safer world."

In both economics and politics, you're siding with the Soviets and doing so (I believe) in the face of the historical record.


Dan, I'm not sure what the lie is in what you quoted: Jesus is Robin Hood, or we aren't commanded not to steal?

I take it what you really object to is equating theft and taxation.

Let me answer that objection by saying that I recognize that this is a fallen world, and thus I believe that the government is permitted to commit hypocritical and morally suspect acts to ensure civil society.

Consider: a local government has a law against theft, but in order to enforce that law, it must hire a police force, judges, and jailors, and it must build prisons and courthouses. In order to do these things, it levies non-voluntary taxes, coercing people at the threat of a gun to give them money, so that they can create a criminal justice system to prevent precisely what they just did: a mugging.

For civilization to persist in this fallen world, it must make compromises like that. Such compromises are necessary and altogether reasonable when the money's being used to pay for cops and prisons, and when the cops and prisons are being used to enforce private property rights.

But what about when the money's being given to other private individuals? For me, it's not at all clear that coercively forcing me to give money to another private citizen is either necessary or reasonable. Therefore, it's not clear that it's moral.


Let me conclude by asking you, Dan, is it moral for the government to tax a person's income at the rate of 100 percent? Is it moral for all my property to be seized by the government through taxation?

If not, why not?

Dan, let me say one more thing using as a point of reference the simplified case of the government levying taxes simply to pay for the criminal justice system (cops and prisons), and that system being used simply to enforce private property rights.

(For the record, I believe that the government, at least at the local level, ought to be free also to regulate zoning and to prevent things like gambling and prostitution. The local government ought to be free to have a fire department and a school board, though I agree with Beck (linked above) that private education is the ideal. And the local government should be free to have even libraries, museums, and an orchestra. I'm a federalist who leans toward libertarianism, but not wholly.)

It's possible that the criminal justice can become too large and therefore a cancer on society: the state with its police can become a police state. It's also possible that the system of taxation can become a cancer, when it's confiscatory, when it's punitive, and when it's used to gather funds not for public services but rather to redistribute property from one group of private individuals to another.

"In order to do these things, it levies non-voluntary taxes, coercing people at the threat of a gun to give them money"

Non-voluntary? We have an elected gov't that represents (admittedly, not well) the people and if the people vote to pay taxes to pay for mutually beneficial services, that is called self-government. Not stealing. Words have meanings.

Now, I certainly agree we have a monstrously large gov't and pay much more in taxes than I'd like. We're approaching a trillion dollars a year on our massive military machine!

I'm not represented at all (ie, no elected officials represent even a portion of my beliefs), and I greatly resent (and resist) having to pay those military taxes which are against my religion. But it's not stealing. It's problematic, but that's how gov't works.

Tell you what: I'll gladly vote to decrease our welfare budget in half (saving ~$12 billion) if you'll vote in favor of cutting our military budget in half (saving $250 billion).

My point remains: taxation is problematic, sometimes just plain wrong, and sometimes too much, BUT it is not stealing nor mugging. Those words have meanings and they're different from the word "taxation." We can't communicate if we use wrong words and concepts to build up strawmen arguments to accuse our opponents of ("What? You support theft?!" "You're siding with the fascist communists", etc.).

You want to discuss problems with welfare, the military budget and taxation, fine. But let's not lower ourselves to poor reasoning and demonization to discuss matters. We are brothers in Christ and should talk honestly with each other.

DR said:

"God imposed an across the board percentage that was to be given to Him - 10%. Why did He not force men who had more to give more? Surely you get this Dan."

God expects we give him everything, DR. Surely you get that basic Christian teaching?

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

-Jesus

"So the disciples determined that, according to ability, each should send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea."

-Luke

"While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God. When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last"

-Luke

The bible offers plenty of examples of expecting those who have much to share much. There's nothing wrong with this, in fact, it's a good thing.

Now, I'm not saying that is justification for taking people's money, but if a people in a democracy choose to share in the costs of society and they further choose that those with more give more, there is nothing biblically nor constitutionally wrong with that. I'd be willing to bet that most wealthy folk are okay with that notion.

And we're a free nation. If there are wealthy folk who advocate against such taxes and lose the debate and vote, they are still free to decide to make less or move away. Or, they can do as I do when votes don't go my way and continue to advocate for my position even when I lose.

I'll say it again, if you want to argue against welfare or other taxes, make your case for or against it. You can even call it ungodly if you wish - I certainly call our massive military and roadways budgets ungodly. But be prepared for people not to believe that it is ungodly if you can't make a biblical case to support that position.

All this economic-talkin has left me wondering why folks like D.R. insist that Universal Health Care is not economically-feasible but yet we're spending billions each week in Iraq??? Talk about misuse of resources...

As to a flat tax, Republicans have controlled Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue for almost six years. Why no flat tax? House Republicans seem to have made taxes a campaign theme - but how many are demanding a flat tax?

To respond to a couple of other points:

"I believe that the government, at least at the local level, ought to be free also to regulate zoning and to prevent things like gambling and prostitution."

Agreed. And litter and pollution and driving behaviors, amongst other common interest behaviors.

"The local government ought to be free to have a fire department and a school board..." etc, etc.

Agreed. So we are in agreement that taxation for SOME purposes is not wrong or theft and makes sense if we're going to live in a common world.

So, we can debate the fiscal and social wisdom of the use of our taxes without calling one another thieves.

"is it moral for the government to tax a person's income at the rate of 100 percent?"

If the People agree to such a tax, there is nothing immoral about it. Stupid, yes. Immoral, no. The early church did so on a voluntary basis. If some society decided to do so, I don't see it as necessarily an immoral idea. Just a bad one.

Dan:

Words do mean things, but I do not believe the term "theft" is limited to private individuals. That is, unless you want to assume that theft is defined as "unlawful" taking and that all taxation levied through democratic processes are inherently lawful.

(In later answering my question about tax rate of 100 percent, you do seem to make such an assumption.)

Does such logic apply to other acts? A representative government can't murder because all its acts of killing are, by definition, lawful? It seems to me that, by that logic, the government could have a minority group killed and it wouldn't be state-sponsored murder simply because "the people" decided.

To that I say, there is a law which ought to constrain even to a representative government: the moral law, partially expressed so eloquently in the idea that all men have inalienable rights. Process does not guarantee moral behavior on the part of a government; a representative government can take a minority's property without consent or kill that minority without cause.

I don't believe it's wrong to call such acts by their simplest names: theft and murder.


And, with respect, I believe the federal government is spending only $536 billion on defense in 2006, which is sizable, but hardly approaching a full trillion.

You seem to admit that defense spending is $500 Bil in suggesting that cutting the military budget would save us $250 Bil. And yet, "We're approaching a trillion dollars a year on our massive military machine!"

No, we just passed half a trillion: what just happened to words meaning things? What about our being "brothers in Christ [who] should talk honestly with each other"?


And, respectfully, cutting welfare in half would save us far more than a mere $12 Bil. Farm subsidies alone are more than twice that.


Speaking of massive budgets, defense spending isn't even as much as what we're spending on Social Security. Combine Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and those three expenditures alone already exceed a billion.

Certainly we can debate the merits of our fiscal priorities, but at least providing for national defense is a power that is genuinely enumerated in our Constitution.

So I have a counter-offer: let's limit federal spending first to what's actually enumerated, and let's see how much we save.

Dan, there's another way to make the point I'm trying to make:

- All men have inalienable rights.

- Men have rights that can be taken away, as long as the process is democratic.

Those two ideas are incompatible. It appears that you agree with the second; would that be accurate?

If so, we may be at empasse, unable to reach consensus because we disagree about first principles. I believe men have inalienable rights, including (and perhaps especially) property rights. Those rights may be voided if an individual chooses to violate the rights of others, and those rights may be nudged ever so slightly either to pay for public goods (as opposed to private wealth redistribution) or for public safety.

(As an instance of public safety, a government may command you to drive on the right side of public roads, but if you build a private motor club celebrating Brittania, you ought to be able to drive on its private roads however you please.)

But, democratic processes doesn't make moral an attempt to tax at a confiscatory rate. Indeed, members of the private early church chose to volunteer all their wealth, but there's a world of difference there.

If you want to give all your wealth to the government, fine. That's not immoral, I won't try to change your mind, and the government would happy to take the extra money.

But surely you can see that that's not quite the same thing as voting to get the government to compel your neighbor follow suit.


And, Mr. Weave, I don't see an argument in your comparing universal health care to rebuilding Iraq. I see an insinuation that the former's more sensible than the latter, but not an actual argument.

And I for one believe we ought to have a flat tax; why the Republicans in Congress don't push for such a thing is a reflection of, among other things, the fact that not all Republicans are even remotely conservative on economic issues, the fact that most Congressional Republicans are politicians and not idealogues, and the fact that a flat tax is probably not very popular and needs to be argued for strongly.

Short on time, a couple of comments. Bubba said:

"And, with respect, I believe the federal government is spending only $536 billion on defense in 2006, which is sizable, but hardly approaching a full trillion."

The direct military budget is ~$500 billion. Add to that the extra expenditures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Add to that the portion of the national debt that has been incurred by excessive military spending. Add to that the benefits we pay to veterans and other military related costs. Add to that Homeland security and other forms of "defense" and we're approaching - if not surpassing - $1 trillion.

Words have meanings, indeed. I'm talking about the full amount that we spend on our military and military supports and it is indeed as I claimed.

Did you know we're spending (just in our military budget of $500 billion) more than the next 25 nations combined? Don't talk to me about being opposed to big gov't until you're willing to tackle some of the biggest part of it.

And when I quoted ~$25 billion for "welfare," I believe that's the amount of money that goes towards TANF, which is what most people are talking about when they talk about welfare. Yes, there are all sorts of money being redistributed from taxpayers to others. That is what taxation does.

I'd be glad to end today nearly all redistribution of tax dollars to oil companies, coal companies, and other corporate welfare.

The welfare that assists folk is assistance, but it's also an investment. If it costs $1 million to fund Program X (let's say a daycare assistance program), but that results in a savings of $2 million (by helping to have healthier families, helping people work - which generates more, not less tax dollars - by keeping people out of prison, etc, etc), then that's an investment in society that is only fiscally responsible.

As a member of a community, I'll always gladly pay $1x in order to save $2x down the road. Or, put another way, I'd probably always suggest acting proactively rather than reactively to problems.

The welfare that assists folk is assistance, but it's also an investment. If it costs $1 million to fund Program X (let's say a daycare assistance program), but that results in a savings of $2 million (by helping to have healthier families, helping people work - which generates more, not less tax dollars - by keeping people out of prison, etc, etc), then that's an investment in society that is only fiscally responsible. quote from Dan T.

Why do I have so much trouble figuring out what Dan and his friends, Westmoreland, Prescott and others, really want? They want separation of church & state, so with the help of the ACLU they take Prison Fellowship to court, costing them huge dollars that could be used to help more prisoners be rehabilitated; want to take down all 10 Commandment displays (reminders to people of ageless moral laws); don't want helpless babies in the womb to be protected and on an on.
Very Confusing! And they are the compassionate ones? God help us!
Marilyn

I see, Dan: when you're talking about military expenditures, you're talking about "the full amount that we spend on our military and military supports" and "the portion of the national debt that has been incurred by excessive military spending," but when you mention welfare, you mean just one program: TANF.

Just TANF, no mention even of the debts we've incurred with social programs.

I think you're hardly in a position to have lectured me about talking honestly with one's Christian brothers.


I am generally willing to entertain the idea that one can spend too much on the military, but I think it's irresponsible to refuse to take seriously threats posed by rogue states like North Korea and terror states like Iran.

I question the claim that we spend "more than the next 25 nations combined," as that might not be strictly true if you include the EU.

I'm also not aghast at the claim at any rate, for three reasons:

A) We essentially provide much of Europe's defense, as we did in Bosnia.

B) We have no choice but to rely on our own strength; while we would come to the aid of our allies, it's not clear that the reverse is true, that Italy for instance would send its forces to help us in a time of need or that its forces would even be helpful.

C) The goal isn't military parity; it's military superiority. With the nightmare scenario of true proliferation on the horizon, I'm inclined to agree with John Derbyshire, who wrote, "I don't see how you can ever have enough nukes."

(Knowing how a leftist will likely react to that line, I wouldn't be surprised if, despite Derb's rational explanation for that line, it derails this thread entirely.)


But let's return to the subject of welfare.

You write that you oppose many forms of welfare -- your objection being the "whom" not the "what" of that noxious euphamism, wealth redistrubtion.

(As if the government or someone else distributed wealth in the first place, as if wealth isn't created or earned.)

You write, "The welfare that assists folk is assistance, but it's also an investment."

This raises four questions:

1) Why can't corporate welfare be justified the same way -- as an investment? I don't like personal or corporate welfare, but your differentiation between the two may be nothing more than personal preference, unless of course you have solid numbers that prove a higher ROI for one and not the other.

2) If we can make/save $2 million by "investing" $1 Mil in welfare, why not invest $4 Mil, or $4 trillion, or how-about investing our entire GDP in social programs? Won't the results be even greater?

3) I highly doubt that the return on investment (ROI) is 100%, so I hope you have hard numbers; if you do, do you have evidence that this ROI is greater than the return of private investment -- of people saving and spending their money as they see fit? You completely ignore the effects of taxation; if you tax money that would have been spent (say) in the stock market, you have to subtract the gains that would have accrued.

4) Whose money is it to invest anyway?


That last question leads to your writing, "there are all sorts of money being redistributed from taxpayers to others. That is what taxation does."

That's right that taxation intrinsically involves a transfer of wealth, from those who generated that wealth to those who didn't.

(Again, "redistribution" is a dishonest term, as money was never distributed in the first place: wealth is created or earned, not distributed by fiat.)

What I object to is taxation whose purpose is wealth transfer. When a town hires police officers or builds a city hall, the result is that money is transfered from taxpayers to cops and construction workers. But the government ideally didn't cause that transfer in order to give money to Officer Jones, but to enforce the law and to administer the work of government. The transfer is a consequence but not the goal.

But here's the main principle:

It's not your wealth to transfer. It's not the government's wealth to transfer. It doesn't belong to "the People," but to the individuals who created it.

There may be a small degree of wealth transfer that is unavoidable in the course of the government writing and enforcing laws, or in providing public parks and libraries, or in perhaps building clinics and soup kitchens for the poor. But this attitude that wealth -- private property -- is a thing to moved around like so many pieces on a gameboard, by social engineers who think they know better, betrays a literally tyrannical arrogance that needs to be put in its place.

Miss Marilyn, I don't know why you have a hard time figuring out what we want: We're pretty consistent.

I'd be opposed to removing state funding from the prison group if they're doing an educational/rehab sort of program that has a proven recidivism record. I'd support removing state funding if they're doing religious proselytizing, but would oppose saying they couldn't be there.

1. In short, I and many of my cohorts are okay with state spending if there's a reasonably proven program in place that eases whatever problem (ie, reduces poverty, reduces recidivism, increases self-sufficiency, etc).

2. We oppose church proselytizing efforts being funded by the state.

3. We support and highly encourage churches doing responsible mission work on their own dime.

4. We're opposed to graven images (Ten Commandments can be worshipped as well as Golden Calves) - especially on taxpayers' dimees.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Dan T., the Prison Fellowship program is completely voluntary, no one has to attend and no one is making them, the majority of their funding is donations . As for graven images, if you're the one determining what that consists of, maybe you would like my help in checking out all your priorities and loves. Everything you use for a defense only sound like a bunch of excuses to me and then excuses are only allowed by whomever you determine. Marilyn

"the Prison Fellowship program is completely voluntary, no one has to attend and no one is making them, the majority of their funding is donations"

Okay. By that, should I assume you're saying that they ARE receiving some tax moneys to do "religiousy" stuff? As I recall the story, that's the issue - Prison Fellowship is receiving tax dollars to preach. Am I remembering incorrectly?

I'm 100% in support of them preaching. I'm 100% opposed to them receiving tax dollars to do so. You?

So, are you okay with my priorities as I laid them out above? (Repeated here:

1. Effective gov't programs may be okay.
2. Opposed to state-funded preaching.
3. In support of preaching on the church's dime.
4. Opposed to graven images

This seems to be basic orthodox Christianity. Or at least it used to be.

Bubba said a lot. I'll tackle a little here:

"but when you mention welfare, you mean just one program: TANF."

No deceptions intended. There are MANY things that can be called "welfare" - I oppose giving welfare to our Halliburton. But generally, when most people I know speak of welfare, they're talking about TANF, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

Yes, you could certainly include whatever percentage of the debt was incurred by that ~$25 billion, I didn't mean to leave that out.

Bubba asked:
"Why can't corporate welfare be justified the same way -- as an investment?"

You could. That is, in fact, how corporate welfare is usually sold.

However, most people I know find it reprehensible to be giving money to wealthy corporations to help them do better. They'll do okay on their own and don't need assistance is how I'd tend to think of it.

On the other hand, investing in folk who AREN'T making it on their own helps keep them out of prison, helps them be self-sufficient, thereby saving taxpayers money, that seems like a no-brainer to me.

Bubba said:
"The goal isn't military parity; it's military superiority."

That is certainly the goal of those in power. But the degree to which they've worked to "assure" (as if) that sort of security has come at the cost of massive gov't. Generally speaking, it is in the nature of conservatives not to trust Big Gov't solutions (and not undeservedly so). And so, these "conservatives" will oppose $25 billion for poverty assistance - the gov't will just make things worse, they say.

But then they turn around and say that we CAN trust the gov't with (over the course of a few years) trillions of dollars and a massive military. THIS conservative doesn't trust gov't that much.

(Nor did the original George W, who said, "Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.")

Bubba also said:

"I highly doubt that the return on investment (ROI) is 100%"

Well, we're talking about many different programs which have many different results. I'm not well-versed on them all.

Here's a simple example: Prison education.

Study after study shows that when prisoners get education, they return to jail less, saving taxpayers money. Different studies show different results for different programs, but here's an example:

http://www.gc.cuny.edu/press_information
/current_releases/november_2001_educating.htm

The story says: "Changing Minds: The Impact of College in a Maximum-Security Prison" - the first study to examine the impact of college in prison since government funding of such programs was withdrawn in 1994 - shows that college prison programs can save taxpayers millions of dollars in reincarceration costs.

If you're interested, you could research a bit more. I've read enough studies to convince me that most (but not all) welfare programs that assist the poor have positive results for society that makes the investment worthwhile.

Conversely, welfare for corporations helps those corporations and there is some trickle down to society at large, but as I think most folk acknowledge now, "trickle down economics" as a boon to society is largely a myth.

But then, if you're opposed to corporate welfare, then you're not disagreeing with me there.

I'd like to get to your main principle, but I've already written a bunch. Let me take a break and give other folk a chance.

(This is one limitation of this format, words are at a premium.)

One quickie. I didn't finish a thought earlier.

Bubba said:
"The goal isn't military parity; it's military superiority."

That is certainly the goal of those in power...[and I meant to continue]... BUT it is not the goal of we Christians - since this is a blog run by a christian taking on christian topics.

In the Old Testament (which seems to be the preferred Testament for war-as-solution supporters), Israel is repeatedly condemned by God for depending upon a military rather than God. In his battle against thousands of Phillistine, God tells Gideon to keep whittling down his army to 300 men - and then arms them with lamps and noisemakers!

And Gideon's story is the rule, not the exception. God doesn't us to depend upon a huge military, but upon God.

While the nations rage and cower and gather their comfort in WMD, we find our comfort in God.

[Just wanted to finish that important thought...]

Dan, I am skeptical of both the idea that we have a lot of people who need assistance and the idea that government assistance will generally make them more self-sufficient.

Like I said before, I find merit in arguments that we can spend too much on the military, but I do so only from those who take seriously the threats we face. National defense is, I think, a more obvious duty of government than is welfare, and it has the added luxury of being Constitutionally permissible at the federal level.


About Washington's quote: as this country has become larger geographically and as technology has made war far more destructive and rapid international interaction far easier, it's probably made the military-industrial complex necessary. And I'll remind you that the Revolutionary War would not have been won more quickly or more easily had Washington's army been even more underfunded than it was.


Now, you write that military superiority is "certainly the goals of those in power." I take it, it's not yours?

I don't think parity and stability between the nations that champion liberty and tyrannical regimes is a good thing, particularly for those behind the barbed-wire fence, but even for those in the free world: it doesn't make us safer to give tyrants a 50-50 shot at defeating us.

But that assumes the impossible: parity and stability are illusions; competing nations, cultures, and ideologies are gaining power and losing power all the time.

So somebody is going to be dominant militarily: if not us, who?

I always knew that fundamentalism caused as much brain damage as drinking heavily. This series of comments has proved it. I know I'm being deliberately provocative. I'm too ticked at the idiocy displayed to be polite.

Dan, I seem to have my answer to the question of whether military superiority is your goal.

(You forget, I might add, that Gideon pursued the Midianites after the horns-and-lamps attack, and that, according to Judges 8, he captured their kings and then killed the men of Succoth for refusing to help feed his men.)

But I see a quandry:

You don't want the government to pay for Christian prison ministries, but you do want a small military because, "While the nations rage and cower and gather their comfort in WMD, we find our comfort in God."

Theocracy hypocrisy. :)

Michael, if you can't say something substantive, you might not should say anything at all.

Bubba said:

"You don't want the government to pay for Christian prison ministries, but you do want a small military because, "While the nations rage and cower and gather their comfort in WMD, we find our comfort in God.""

No quandry.

I don't want gov't to pay for churches, mosques, synagogues and covens to preach. (Do you?) I don't think it wise to have the state meddling in church affairs (and if they're paying, they're meddling).

It's a matter of religious liberty.

On my military position, my religious convictions would have us having no army at all. I'm a Christian Pacifist and have no practical use for an army.

BUT, that's my religious conviction. I don't want to impose my religious convictions on others. It's a matter of religious liberty, as was true for my other position.

I don't to impose my religious convictions on others by force of law, so I'm okay with the majority deciding that they want an army. So my position against a HUGE military comes from - interestingly enough - my conservative civic leanings.

I don't trust Big Gov't to do a job well. I don't want to pay for a massive war machine. I don't trust my gov't to have WMDs. I don't want my gov't to be the global cops.

There's no religious quandry there. No theocracy hypocrisy (that might be a good name for a poem...)

DR, granted I haven't read the previous 32 comments (excluding my own). It seems that you're saying that we shouldn't be letting the government try to alleviate the poverty in America, rather that it is the role of the Church in America to help the poor. Perhaps I didn't word that exactly right, but basically it's what I think you're getting at.

Let me say, to a certain extent, I think you're right. And to a certain extent, I think you're wrong.

To explain...

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a great point, saying that we shouldn't just toss the poor man a coin. We should work to fix the system that made him poor.

2. Some people choose to be poor (and/or transient). There's not much we can do about it.

3. Because of that, there will always, ALWAYS, be poor on Earth. So there is a mandate for us as believers to help them.

4. If we're willing to mandate morality (anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc.) then we should be willing to work toward the establishment of a system that doesn't reward poverty (the current welfare system).

5. Are you more interested in helping the poor, or for Christians to act like Christ? That's a loaded question because the answer should be both. Then again, I'm more willing to question someone's "Christ-ianity" based on their (lack of) love for others and desire to help ALL people than on their theology. I'm not sure, but I think we differ in that regard.

6. Is it the welfare state that makes Christians lazy? I'd say that it's the welfare state that makes many on welfare comfortable enough to maintain instead of strive for their best. I think it's the disconnect between the welfare worldview and our worldview that makes it DIFFICULT for any work to be done cross-culturally (and it IS a culture of poverty). That difficulty, compounded by a complete communication disconnect, is what keeps many people from doing anything (or even knowing what it is to do). Then add the fear factor in (in many cases, rightfully so). I think it's more than just Christians being lazy (although I think we are).

7. What have you read (besides a couple articles) that would help you (and us) come to a workable SOLUTION to the problem stated in #5? It's easy to say that Christians are lazy. It's another thing to actually solve the problem or overhaul the system.

Briefly, Dan:

A sober realism is the hallmark of conservatism, so your assertion that conservative civic leanings is why you oppose a large military rings false to me because it ignores the crucial issue of how we are to deal with rogue states that continue to develop nukes and the long-range weapons to deliver them.

It seems to me that, despite your assertion that you have "no practical use for an army," you wholeheartedly enjoy the religious liberty that is defended by that army. It's like enjoying a hamburger while having "no practical use" for either ranchers or butchers.

And you are not the first Christian pacifist I've ever encountered, but I've come to believe that the Christian justifications for pacifism at all costs must also logically lead to what amounts to anarchism: if -- despite Paul's writing that the government doesn't bear the sword in vain -- "turn the other cheek" requires it to put down the sword in the face of an invading army, it must surely also do likewise in the face of a felon.

If "turn the other cheek" requires non-retaliation not just at the individual level but also for the government, then we can't wage war or execute murderers or imprison murderers or even impose fines for murder.

Is there an internally coherent and consistent philosophy that is based on the Bible, forbids all war and yet allows imprisonment? I haven't seen one, I'd love to see one now, but until I do I'm inclined to conclude that, like all other Christian pacifists I've met, you haven't thought your religious convictions through to their logical conclusion.

I don't know how to address your comments in a short paragraph, so, in as brief a space as possible:

Bubba said:

"A sober realism is the hallmark of conservatism, so your assertion that conservative civic leanings is why you oppose a large military rings false to me"

When I refer to Conservatism, I'm talking about classic conservatism which has been popularly defined by Russell Kirk, who has Ten Tenets he ascribes to conservatism. You can reference it here, if you'd like:

http://www.kirkcenter.org/kirk/ten-principles.html

Certainly, sober realism about the condition of humanity is a core tenet of conservatism. But in realizing the condition of humanity and our limited genius, Conservatism argues for extreme prudence in our actions. For this reason, traditionally big "C" Conservatives have been fairly isolationist - and certainly reluctant to engage in wars except for truly defensive reasons.

"Pre-emptive strikes" fail to measure up in this regards.

Bubba also said:

"It seems to me that, despite your assertion that you have "no practical use for an army," you wholeheartedly enjoy the religious liberty that is defended by that army."

Yes, it would seem that way to you. For pacifists, on the other hand, we recognize both the limited "protection" AND the just-as-real dangers posed by a military - especially a massive military.

We pacifists have a long history of persecution and that has often been at the hand of militaries and the dominant religious structures of the day. We do not trust a large gov't with a large military (again, this touches on both my Christian values and my Conservative ones). We are a bit amazed that "conservatives" who don't trust the gov't to spend $25 billion on TANF to assist the needy will trust that same gov't with hundreds of billions of dollars in a military with hordes of WMDs. Where's the logic in that?

We believe that an aggressive pre-emptive strike military dozens of times larger than other nations' actually gives an incentive to terrorism. If "they" can't possibly meet us head on in a "fair fight" and if they fear our WMDs, then what options do the others have?

No. I have little use for a military. Especially such a large one. IF believers wanted to start talking about the kind of military that is present in the Old Testament (more of an under-armed militia called together in times of emergency), I might start thinking it a possibility within biblical guidelines.

I will be happy to contribute to Dan T.'s moving expenses so that he can move to one of the "promise lands" that Dan seems to prefer over the USA and that is being compassionate, due to Dan's persecution he has to endure.
Marilyn

Bubba continued:

"If "turn the other cheek" requires non-retaliation not just at the individual level but also for the government, then we can't wage war"

You're making a leap that pacifists don't think logical. If I love my brother who is a thieving dope-head, I may very well want to imprison him for his own good. I can do this in love and while turning the cheek. It's about accountability and tough love.

On the other hand, I can't kill him as an expression of love. AND CERTAINLY, I can't take actions such as bombing the neighborhood in which he lives in hopes of stopping him as an expression of love, and THAT is the more apt analogy for war-making.

I'm curious Bubba (or anyone else), do you think Jesus would drop bombs on targets where little children or other innocent bystanders are?

Christian Pacifists and the not-exclusively-pacifistic Just Peacemakers acknowledge the biblical notion that gov'ts WILL have "the sword," and will use it. Some good can even come of it. But we don't rely upon it. We rely upon God.

We request that the gov't don't use their military in our name and we'll fight such use - especially in more egregiously unjust circumstances - in situations where we have a voice in the gov't.

Jesus and the early church - which was pacifistic for the first few hundred years - didn't call for change in the gov't because they had no voice in their gov't. But the prophets often did in the OT where the people did have a voice.

I'm getting ready to post (either at my place or at my church's) excerpts from Michael's sermon from this last Sunday - Reformation Sunday - which will include some info about the early anabaptists and the persecution they were dealt by both the Catholic and the early Protestant church. Be sure to catch that, it may be informative.

Dan, I'll tackle your two posts in two posts, but not in a strict one-to-one mapping.

I know Kirk's principles, and none of them make clear how we should deal with a nuclear North Korea and a terrorist-supporting Iran that's working to build its own nuclear arsenal. In a world where I could travel from Atlanta to Cairo overnight and on a moment's notice, isolation -- pretending the rest of the world doesn't exist, all as Europe, north Africa, and southeast Asia become increasingly intimidated by militant Islamists -- does not strike me as a prudent option.

Kirk did support prudence in his fourth principle: "Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences," he wrote, so what are the positive long-term consequences of letting North Korea and Iran continue to acquire nukes?


"Pre-emptive strikes"? To what are you referring? It can't be Afghanistan, since its Taliban rulers aided al Queda, and it can't be Iraq, because Saddam spent a decade disregarding the cease-fire agreement that ended the war he started by invading Kuwait.

Are we talking Iran or North Korea? We haven't struck pre-emptively yet, and in an age of WMD's, and when our enemies make clear their hatred for us, I'm not sure the prudence or good sense in waiting for them to load their guns, aim, and pull the trigger before we do anything effective to stop them.


You write:

For pacifists, on the other hand, we recognize both the limited "protection" AND the just-as-real dangers posed by a military - especially a massive military.

Problem is, you just eschewed the protection provided by the military:

"On my military position, my religious convictions would have us having no army at all. I'm a Christian Pacifist and have no practical use for an army." [emphasis mine]

You can't be an absolutist on the abolition of an army and its utter uselessness and then say that you're cognizant and grateful for the protection it provides.


You ask for the logic behind allowing our military -- run by civilians whom we elect -- to amass WMD's. I asked for a plausible alternative strategy to dealing with our enemies' acquiring such weapons. You appealed to vague principles of Russell Kirk and isolationism.

That's insufficient: come up with a clear and viable alternative to deal with North Korea and Iran, and then we'll discuss whether it's illogical to use the possibility of their destruction to deter them from attacking us.


We believe that an aggressive pre-emptive strike military dozens of times larger than other nations' actually gives an incentive to terrorism. If "they" can't possibly meet us head on in a "fair fight" and if they fear our WMDs, then what options do the others have?

Since, between Vietnam and 2001, we haven't actually exhibited much military confidence (to say nothing of agression or preemption), I wonder what you think caused the last two decades of terrorism.

But you miss the point: our goal shouldn't be, "Let's make terrorism less necessary by becoming weaker militarily and making a conventional attack more viable." That's suicidal.


And you write that you'd support a small militia for emergency use. Again, explain how such a militia -- or any other alternative to our maintaining military superiority through a large armed force -- could deal effectively with a nuclear Iran, and I'll be happy to listen.


You write, correctly, that you can't kill an enemy out of love for him, but I believe you can kill a murderer out of love for his innocent victims, and you can kill a military enemy out of love for the innocent, free people you're trying to defend. There may be times where you have not just moral permission to do such things, but also a moral duty.

You ask, fatuously, "do you think Jesus would drop bombs on targets where little children or other innocent bystanders are?"

The question confuses things, both by the anachronism of Jesus and twentieth-century ordinance, and by the fact that Jesus came to save men's souls and will return to end history and judge the world, and by the fact that Jesus exhibited a Lordship over His creation that we do not (yet) share.

The proper question is, is a bombing campaign that you know will result in innocent casualties always morally impermissible? It's a bad choice to make, but it's not the worst choice, particularly when our technology is imperfect and when the goal is to end a tyrannical regime.

But all this is political. The more pertinent questions are Scriptural...

(Continued from above)

Dan, the Scriptural problems come from two quotes of yours. I'll tackle them in order of importance:

First, there's this:

Christian Pacifists and the not-exclusively-pacifistic Just Peacemakers acknowledge the biblical notion that gov'ts WILL have "the sword," and will use it. Some good can even come of it. But we don't rely upon it. We rely upon God.

The problem is, this isn't a Biblical attitude. In Romans 13:1-5, Paul is quite clear that government is instituted by God, that a ruler "does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." (Rom 13:4, emphasis mine)

There is the old joke of the man caught in a flood, who refused a boat and a helicopter because he was waiting for God to save him. As the water surged above his home's roof and as he was about to drown, he cried out, "God save me!"

He heard a voice from Heaven: "You didn't see the boat I sent, or my chopper?"

The fact is, God often uses human means to provide for us: parents, teachers, even the random guy who helped change your flat tire. The Bible is clear that God has authorized the government to protect us from gross evils, presumably both internal and external threats to public safety. To deny their protection while saying you rely on God is petulent, like feigning reliance on God for your daily bread while ignoring the possibility that the baker serves that very purpose for Him.

It's seemingly a high-minded sentiment, but it has no basis in Scripture and in fact seems contrary to the Bible.

That doesn't mean that every act of a government is right: kings can abuse their power as much as parents, but that's not to deny the authority they have.

And that's not to say that it's never the case that we can morally rebel from bad parents or revolt against a tyrannical government, but that's a discussion for another time.


Second, there's this:

If I love my brother who is a thieving dope-head, I may very well want to imprison him for his own good. I can do this in love and while turning the cheek. It's about accountability and tough love.

This ignores the punitive purpose of imprisonment: it's not all rehabilitation and protecting people from themselves, but never mind that.

Can someone imprison another person out of love for that person? "Tough love" and all that? Sure.

But you can do that "while turning the cheek"?

NO, YOU CAN'T. It's a contradiction in terms. Imprisoning someone is a complete rejection of "resist not evil" and "turn the other cheek."

I believe you wrote that without thinking of what the phrase means. It would be nice for your philosophy if the two weren't incompatible, but you can't simply say that they aren't.

They are incompatible, which is why I reiterate that if a person thinks "turn the other cheek" applies to the government, then the logical conclusion of that application leads to the abolition, not merely of capital punishment, but even of prison and mere fines.

A Christian who is absolute in his pacifism and defends that pacifism by appealing to "turn the other cheek" has no rational defense against practical anarchism.

Allow me to think a bit with you, Bubba...

You said:

"It would be nice for your philosophy if the two weren't incompatible, but you can't simply say that they aren't."

Sure I can, watch: They're not incompatible. One can turn the other cheek and seek to overcome evil with good and still want to see those who are a threat to others stopped.

Indeed, that is the heart of Just Peacemaking.

Now, let me back up a little. There ARE a small number of pacifists (understanding that pacifism is a spectrum of beliefs, not one monolith) who take the "resist not evil," to mean what you're implying that it means. Don't do nothing to stop evil. The doormat approach to Christianity.

Indeed, I'd suggest that it is this take that MOST war-as-solution folk THINK that all pacifists mean when they advocate overcoming evil with good.

But, just as you read Jesus' command in context with the whole Bible and find reason to kill your enemies, we read Jesus' command in context and find that it would be a poor interpretation to assume that Jesus meant, "Do nothing to stop evil."

Rather than write on and do a poor job of explaining what we (Just Peacemakers, most pacifists, non-violent direct action types) mean, instead let me point you to a good source:

http://www.30goodminutes.org/csec/
sermon/wink_3707.htm

Walter Wink talks about how Jesus, in his "turn the other cheek" sermon, spelled out the normal alternatives (fight or flight) and suggested, instead, that God's Way was a Third Way. Not fight, nor flight, but standing up to oppression non-violently.

We know Jesus was not opposed to confrontation (his "temple tantrum," for just one example), but clearly Jesus commands us to do something different than just use deadly force to overcome an enemy.

Jesus believed (and, being God, knows) that the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. The power of good is stronger than the power of evil.

And now, I've already wandered too long. Know this: We're not talking about "doing nothing." In response to your question asking "for a plausible alternative strategy to dealing with our enemies...", I'll refer you to Glen Stassen's book, Just Peacemaking or the Quakers, who have a pretty specific set of answers to that specific question. Check it out:

http://www.fcnl.org/ppdc/

I believe that, not only did Jesus clearly command us to overcome evil with good, but that he did so knowing that it works at least as well as overcoming violence with violence. But EVEN IF obeying Jesus means getting crucified everytime, then we ought to still obey Jesus and not choose to disregard his words merely on the basis of, "they're impractical..."

Dan, I'd love to discuss the full breadth of what's already been raised, from the question of viable alternatives to militarization in the face of a nuclear North Korea and soon-to-be-nuclear Iran -- war "prevention" may not be sufficent for those who sincerely believe in jihad, just as education programs may reduce accidental fires but not deter arsonists -- to the question of what Paul meant by government bearing the sword as a "servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." But I'll focus on what you wrote.

Certainly, you're free to say that resisting evil is compatible with the command to not resist evil, and I suppose I'm free to say that there exists seven-sided triangles, but both statements are nonsense: we're free to say them, but we're wrong to say them.

Yes, Jesus did not command us to "do nothing," but his alternative to fight or flight wasn't non-violent resistence.

If a man slaps you across the face, give him the other cheek to slap.

If a man sues for your coat, give him your shirt, too.

If a man compels you to walk a mile with him, walk two.

That ISN'T non-violent resistance: it's non-resistance, it's active capitulation, it's energetic surrender.

I truly believe that the rest of Scripture makes clear that this injunction applies to the individual and not to the state, and that there are even personal circumstances in which this injunction does not apply: both Daniel and the Apostles were right to refuse to renounce their beliefs. But if the scope of the command is more limited than some may believe, that doesn't mean that a command that clearly teaches non-retaliation in fact teaches something else like resistance as long as it's peaceful.

You end your comment by writing, "But EVEN IF obeying Jesus means getting crucified everytime, then we ought to still obey Jesus and not choose to disregard his words merely on the basis of, 'they're impractical...'"

That brings me back to an older question: what is it that makes war wholly impermissible but prisons okay, especially if the cops who put criminals in prison and the guards who watch them are armed and authorized to use deadly force when it's necessary to keep the peace?

It's possible that we've strayed too far from the original intent of this blog entry; I'd be happy to continue to discuss American foreign policy, just war, and absolute pacifism, but we could bring this part of the discussion to a close.

I believe it suffices to say that sincere Christians can hold many various positions across the political spectrum. I do not believe that all such positions are equally prudent or moral, and I do not believe that all such positions are internally consistent and are coherent in the light of Scripture.

I don't see how, if a person believes "turn the other cheek" requires a foreign policy of strict pacifism, that person can still coherently cling to his support for armed cops and for prisons. I don't believe absolute pacifism is required by Scripture, and I simply do not believe that it is a serious position in the face of psycho states acquiring nuclear weapons.

It appears that, like clothing, government is a necessary consequence of the fall of man. It cannot end all ills, and it's responsible for problems of its own, but it's generally effective at limiting the consequences of human evil -- as "an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer," as Paul wrote.

When Christ returns victorious and draws to a close this sinful era of history, surgeons will be able to put away their scalpels, as illness will be no more. But it's folly for them to stop their practice now in anticipation of the Second Coming, as if simply by putting away their surgical knives sickness will cease.

Likewise, there will be no need for generals and soldiers when Christ returns to rule over us all, but it's also folly to adhere to absolute pacifism now, as if the solution to militant regimes is for us to disarm.

Immanentizing the eschaton is a uniquely progressive affliction; there is nothing conservative about it.

We both agree that we must sometimes resist and overcome evil: I'll even go so far as to say that using deadly force should not be our first option, but the use of deadly force is sometimes necessary -- as in using overwhelming military force to end a brutal regime that's oppressing its people and threatening its neighbors.

There are, as in so many walks of life, two opposite ways to fail at one's duty: to be trigger-happy, or to refuse to take up arms when diplomacy fails.

Unless you want to continue this discussion, you can have the last word.

I've just posted a war-related poem at my blog. If you'd like to carry the conversation on over there, I'd be glad to do so, as we are off-topic here.

A couple of closing responses to your remarks, then. You said:

"I truly believe that the rest of Scripture makes clear that this injunction applies to the individual and not to the state"

We agree, then, that individual Christians ought not participate in war?

That would be my point after all is said and done. I've never said that I would legislate pacifism (ie, "require a foreign policy of strict pacifism"), just that Christians have a requirement to overcome evil with good and to love our enemies and therefore must seek ways to stop oppression that fall within those parameters.

Perhaps the word, "pacifism" is a stumbling block and should be set aside? I'm not married to that word. Rather, I'm insisting on striving to obey Jesus' teachings.

But I don't think that's what you're getting at, that you don't think "that this injunction applies to the individual and not to the state."

You seem to be saying that Jesus is teaching (with his "give coat, turn cheek, walk extra mile" teachings) "active capitulation" and "energetic surrender." Is that what you think of those teachings?

You stated, "it's also folly to adhere to absolute pacifism now, as if the solution to militant regimes is for us to disarm."

And again, let's set aside the word "pacifism" - do you think it folly to love our enemies now? To overcome evil with good?

Finally, given your responses, I'm thinking that you haven't read Wink, Stassen, the Mennonites or Quakers or what others have had to say about how to effectively oppose violence non-violently.

If you truly think that war should not be the first solution (as I'm sure you do), and that other means ought to be pursued first, doesn't it behoove us to investigate what the other alternatives are before we denounce them as impractical?

[Let me know if you want to carry this over to my blog, I'll copy and paste some of this over there if you're wanting to do so...]

In reading these comments by Dan T. and seeing his passion for non-violence (always), I think he is preaching to the wrong side. He should move to Iraq and teach those people about non-violence, they are the ones who oppress their own people and allowed a dictator that slaughtered his opposition. I think Dan is failing to be thankful for his freedom in the US that was bought by the lives of many men who fought to keep us free. The door to allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached has opened more since this war started than it had ever been before and probably will not remain open after we are gone. Does Dan believe that Jesus is THE Way?
Marilyn

I probably spend too much time on blogs as it is, so I'll probably let this issue rest for the time being.

To answer your questions, Dan, I do believe a mature Christian may be morally permitted to fight in a war, at least in certain circumstances. I don't understand the opposite position, that it's okay for a Christian to enjoy the fruits of security ensured by armed forces but it's not okay for that Christian himself to serve in those forces: it's like saying it's wrong to kill but okay to hire a hitman. A king may have a duty to protect his country even if he's a Christian; so too the general, so too the common soldier.

We do have a duty to love our enemies, but only in addition to loving everyone else, not to the exclusion of loving everyone else. Our love for our enemies must make us careful and deliberate when we choose to oppose them with violent force, but our love for our other neighbors may make that choice the moral choice nevertheless.

I don't believe it's folly to love our enemies, but it is folly to love them to the exclusion of everyone else -- or to be naive about the threat they often pose.

Though "non-retaliation" is probably the best description (and though that description entails even non-violent responses), yes, I do believe that "energetic capitulation" is an accurate description of what Christ teaches in Matthew 5.

I did glance through the FCNL site, though I admit I didn't read it thoroughly. On first glance, though, I didn't see anything that confirmed a realistic appraisal of the threats that face us. There's a call to treat supposed root causes of terrorism, as if there's a predictable relationship between poverty and terrorism: there isn't, as indicated by the middle- and upper-class backgrounds of many of the terrorists who've plotted against Western nations.

I agree that one should investigate alternatives before denouncing them as unrealistic, but while I admit that I didn't pour over ever page to which you linked and every treatise by Quaker and Amish political scientists, it does seem to me that, at least superficially, the pacifists' diagnoses of the causes of terrorism are wrong, and thus their prescribed treatments are probably not going to be effective.

The well-off, third-generation descendents of Muslim immigrants to Western Europe are becoming radicalized to the point they're plotting mass murder same as a poor West Bank teenager, the justifications run the gamut from the Crusades to Kyoto to cartoons, and a night in the Parisian suburbs that results in the burning of only a hundred cars is seen as relatively quiet. It's hard to see how anything other than Western civilization's strong assertion of the primacy of its values of individual liberty is going to have even a chance of prevailing.

And, ultimately, the Quakers' idea of war prevention misses the point entirely: you cannot prevent what has already started. Radical Islam is already waging war against western civilization; we can't avoid that reality, and though we certainly ignore the war as the problem gets worse, I'd much rather try to win it.

I believe we may be (and have been for some time) at the point in history where peaceful resolution and war prevention aren't possible, where the only two possibilities are victory or defeat.

If there are no more questions, I think we should get back to more relevant topics.

My only remaining question, Miss Marilyn, Bubba, is the already asked: What Would Jesus Do?

If asking that question before we take actions means that we're not believing and following in Jesus' Way, well then it's a rather upside down world.

If your answer is, Yes, Jesus would bomb innocent children and bystanders, then I'd suggest you're following another Jesus than the one preached in the Bible (and I would rebuke THAT murderous Jesus in the name of Christ).

If your answer is, No, Jesus would NOT bomb innocent children and other bystanders, I'd say you've got the right answer. And I'd say that our responsibility is as described in 1 Peter:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps...

Dan, I don't think you understood my question. Is Jesus the only Way to salvation? If as Christians, we believe that He is, are we failing if we do not care that people are believeing lies that will take them into eternity - Lost? As for your theory on what Jesus would do in relation to war, I think you are putting too much stock in your own ability to interpret the scriptures. I don't wish to debate with you anymore, because I feel as though I might as well go butt my head into a concrete wall as to continue. I have told you before that I was formerly a Democrat, so my mind is not set in concrete when it comes to politics but when it comes to the matter of salvation and how to be saved......I will not change my mind. I have lived long enough to know that God is God and there is right and wrong and I must daily pray and read His Word and seek to know Him better. Marilyn

Dan, I do think we ought to return to the subject at hand, but I do not think I can let drop your repeated insinuation that I'm being disobedient to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by believing that war is sometimes a just and necessary act.

As I said before, I don't think the question is worded correctly. To be perfectly clear, it's a loaded question, meant to evoke an emotional response rather than a genuine reflection upon our moral duties.

I can provide an equally loaded question along similar lines.

Let's suppose that a man has a gangrenous leg that needs to be removed. Let's further suppose that, for whatever reason, an anesthetic is not available; perhaps he and his friends are on an unhabited island, or perhaps this hypothetical situation predates the (relatively recent) 19th-century development of effective anesthetics.

The obvious moral thing to do is to amputate the man's leg, despite the tremendous pain and before the infection migrates and kills him.

But this answer isn't readily apparent if you use the loaded formulation of asking WWJD.

Observe:

"What would Jesus do? If your answer is, Yes, Jesus would take a knife and cut off the man's leg -- first cutting through skin, then muscle, finally through bone and sinew, all while the man is screaming at the top of his lungs -- the I would suggest that you're following another Jesus than the one preached in the Bible.

"And I would rebuke THAT sadistic Jesus in the name of Christ."

See how easy that is? Do you want to tell me, then, that amputation in the absense of an anesthetic is morally repugnant because it doesn't pass the test of WWJD?

Or would you like to admit that, as high-minded as your question superficially appears, it's a loaded question that seeks only to appeal to emotionalism?

I have so far let you guys go at it without much interaction. That is mainly because I cannot keep up with the conversation enough to comment that much. But also because I think that a third (or in this case, a fourth) party only brings confusion and disrupts the ability of those already in conversation to continue to interact effectively.

Having said that I do want to address Dan's comment about WWJD. First, I agree with Bubba on this that Dan is invoking an emotionalism that does not deal with the central issue. Further, he is framing a question that doesn't account for the complex nature of the situation and allowing only one answer. He has done this before when we discussed the Muslim group paying for Christian churches to be rebuilt over at Michael's blog. Here he invokes the cult proposal of WWJD (I use the word "cult" in the sense of how one follows this philosophy, not in a judgment of its nature as "cultic").

The problem with this is many-fold. First, while Jesus left us an example to follow in many things, even He recognized that His teaching was limited and thus the Holy Spirit was needed to lead us into all truth. He told the apostles in the Gospel of John that His was not the final voice they would hear. Thus to reduce everything down to WWJD is to reject God's provision in the Scriptures. Further, there is also a recessive nature to Scripture in that Jesus affirmed the totality of the OT as authoritative and as having been inspired by that same Holy Spirit that would inspire the apostles to record His words accurately and to continue inScripturization until their deaths.

So, a position which only cites the actions of Jesus minimalizes the work of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Scriptures and limits the revelation of God to only the words and actions THAT WE KNOW OF Jesus.

Second, WWJD assumes that we know all we need to know about Jesus from the 4 Gospels. Yet, the picture we see of Christ in Revelation is actually of a warrior, a righteous judge who brings about a physically harsh judgment upon those who do not repent. So, in your illustration, you put Jesus in your own box of what you see in the Gospels, yet ignore the Jesus of the NT, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, under the direction of Christ Himself.

Finally, a philosophy of WWJD ignores a more vital question, which is, "What would Jesus have US to do?" Jesus was God incarnate, had perfect knowledge as given Him by the Holy Spirit during His time on earth, was certain of His mission, was limited in His actions by His mission, and lived in a society in which political engagement was insignificant, if not virtually invisible (much less military engagement or possibility).

So let's look at the question this way in regards to the Iraqi War -- Would Jesus have us sit on the sidelines and watch a dictator who had already killed thousands (if not millions) of innocent lives rule a nation where the witness of Christ was not only stifled, but also persecuted, after inciting an unjust war and refusing to abide by the sanctions handed out after that war and engaging in activities that would be detrimental to millions of more innocent lives in the future, if indeed we had the power to stop this and if indeed we thought that stopping this would supress future unneccessary bloodshed and would actually open up this area to the Gospel (which it has) and bring religious and personal freedom to a dark land?

You see Dan, contrary to what the media says, what the Democrats would have you believe, what partisan-panderers like Bruce Prescott and others continue preach, and what peace activists naively are convinced of, Evangelicals DO NOT WANT WAR! But, unlike all those people, we see a much worse scenario on the horizon. We know the depravity of man is alive an well. We see people all around us who kill their own children, rape innocent lives, and steal and destroy for no reason other than their own pleasure and greed. So we are not surprised to see a dictator in a foreign country under the influence of a false and dangerous religion doing the same thing to his people. What we are surprised to see is how many people are willing to give him and those like him more of the benefit of the doubt than they are fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

So, Dan, no in your scenario Jesus doesn't kill innocent life, but of course He would be able to wipe out men like Sadaam Hussain (and will one day) with only His spoken word. But since we cannot do this, we also cannot sit idly by and watch genocide of the worse kind, which is why if we need to support military action in Darfur. It's much more sinful to the strong man to callously watch the weak suffer than for the strong man to take out the bully who is causing the weak to suffer. So, while you side with the bully, I will side with the strong man and hope and pray that his mission is successful, even when it looks bleak, knowing that it was a valiant and noble mission.

"You see Dan, contrary to what the media says, what the Democrats would have you believe..."

Contrary to what you're suggesting, I know you don't want war. I've not suggested that. Pacifists/peacemakers are not suggesting that. How I tend to define the difference is that y'all believe in War-as-solution and peacemakers don't.

"...Dan is invoking an emotionalism that does not deal with the central issue."

Emotionalism? I'm saying that I want to live in Jesus' steps, as we are instructed to in the Bible. I want to strive to overcome evil with good. Where is the emotionalism in that?

Do you reject the time-honored standard WWJD (popularized in Charles Sheldon's turn of last century classic, In His Steps) or Peter's call to follow in Jesus' steps as "emotionalism"? This standard was pretty well-accepted in all the traditional conservative churches I had a part in back in the day.

"Finally, a philosophy of WWJD ignores a more vital question, which is, "What would Jesus have US to do?"

I agree that this is a legitimate question, one that is answered in general terms specifically in the Bible. Jesus would have us follow in his steps. Jesus would have us love our enemies. Jesus would have us overcome evil with good.

When you say things such as "Would Jesus have us sit on the sidelines and watch a dictator who had already killed" you are implying that peacemakers are calling for us to just sit on the sidelines and do nothing. And yet I've pointed out repeatedly that this is not what we're advocating.

We're advocating answering the question "What would Jesus have us do," with Jesus' own answer: Overcome evil with good.

In summation:
1. No one is saying conservatives dig war and killing.
2. Peacemakers aren't advocating "doing nothing."
3. Peacemakers ARE advocating following Jesus' fairly specific instructions (Love enemies, Overcome evil with good)
4. There may be (ARE) many ways to do this, but none involve killng innocent bystanders.

And to Miss Marilyn, even though I've answered this question before, YES, I'm saying that there is one Way to salvation and that Way is Jesus. Further, I believe it is possible to reject that salvation and be separated from God. You reject that salvation when you reject Jesus and his Way.

re: "even He recognized that His teaching was limited and thus the Holy Spirit was needed to lead us into all truth."

As an aside, I wonder how well this reasoning would fly if we were talking about sexual sin or about some other sin.

That is, if I were to say that, "Well, Jesus didn't specifically say that it's okay to lie or cheat - and in fact, sometimes sounds as if he's condemning lying and cheating - but Jesus' teaching WAS limited and we have to rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into Truth...", how far would that paperwad fly?

And I'm only partially being facetious. I'm hoping y'all could realize how disconcerting it is for some of us to hear fellow Christians seeming to dismiss what we feel to be clear teachings from Jesus. As well as rejecting the less restrictive - but still radical - Old Testament teachings on war and peace (ie, don't rely upon a huge military, but upon God).

From our point of view, you're ignoring the OT, ignoring Jesus' clear teachings and, instead, taking a few verses that talk about the perceived role of gov't and applying that role to Christians - quite a shocking proposition to many Bible believers.

Dan, you write a lot about "the time-honored standard [of] WWJD" but you fail to acknowledge my critique of that standard: even if it is a good question to ask, it can often manipulated into a loaded, emotionally charged question -- as you have done here, and as I illustrated in the very real case of amputation without anesthetic.

You failed to acknowledge that critique; even in addressing Marilyn and Daniel, you failed even to acknowledge the existence of my response, even though it was right between Marilyn's and Daniel's. You do so to your detriment.

I'll ask again, do you want to tell me that amputation in the absense of an anesthetic is morally repugnant because it doesn't pass the test of WWJD, at least the way you formulated that test in discussing war? Or would you like to admit that, as high-minded as your question superficially appears, it's a loaded question that seeks only to appeal to emotionalism?


And let me reiterate that I believe you're guilty of a fundamental hypocrisy in endorsing the use of imprisonment but not war: just as war often results in civilian casualties, imprisonment can result in innocent men being wrongly convicted and wrongly serving lenthy sentences.

There isn't a way for civil society to ensure that all criminals are justly punished but no innocent men are wrongly punished; let's ask your loaded version of WWJD.

What would Jesus do? Would he support a system that permits the wrongful imprisonment of utterly innocent men?

If your answer is, Yes, Jesus would imprison innocent men, then I'd suggest you're following another Jesus than the one preached in the Bible, and I would rebuke THAT tyrannical Jesus in the name of Christ.

You're not trying to overcome evil with good; you're ignoring Jesus' clear teachings and, instead, taking a few verses that talk about the perceived role of gov't and applying that role to Christians -- which is quite a shocking proposition to many Bible believers.

In summation:
1. No one is saying conservatives dig war and killing.
2. Peacemakers aren't advocating "doing nothing."
3. Peacemakers ARE advocating following Jesus' fairly specific instructions (Love enemies, Overcome evil with good)
4. There may be (ARE) many ways to do this, but none involve killng innocent bystanders.

This statement by Dan is some of the confusing stuff we hear on a daily basis. You would think there is no debate if this is what he believes, but notice that they also say they have plans but never disclose what their plan entails. Marilyn

Marilyn, Dan will likely tell you that the pacifists' plans are quite specific, and he'll point out URL's for sites that give details. My complaint isn't the lack of detail in those plans, but the lack of realism.

But specificity might not be Dan's strong suit, as he refers to "love your enemies" and "overcome evil with good" as "Jesus' fairly specific instructions."

Those instructions aren't specific at all; they are in fact as general as one could imagine.

It is thus not clear that war -- at least in some circumstances -- is a violation of either command. One could truly love your enemy and yet kill him because of your love for the people he threatens, and Dan's stealing bases in presuming that all instances of war are evil and therefore violations of "overcome evil with good."

That base-stealing hardly seems justifiable in light of Paul's martial metaphor of the "armor of God" and in light of the highly militaristic imagery of the Revelation, but that doesn't cause Dan even to hesitate in painting Christian conservatives as disobedient to Christ, even if he does so graciously draw the line at calling us war-mongers.

(At least, he draws the line here. That poem he referenced earlier in this comment thread could hardly be seen as an even-handed disagreement about the propriety of the use of military force.)

Thanks Bubba for your comment. You are exactly right concerning the lack of realism. It seems to me that liberals are putting a lot of their hope in this world and their political leaders. I'm looking forward to Christ's return. I don't believe we are going to have world peace until then, although it would be nice. I appreciate what we have been blessed with in the US, but I also think that if our Nation continues downward morally, God will judge us and we will either acknowledge Him as Lord or suffer the consequences. Marilyn

"You are exactly right concerning the lack of realism. It seems to me that liberals are putting a lot of their hope in this world and their political leaders."

From this fella's point of view, this is really funny.

I'm calling for following Christ's teaching literally, and I get accused of
1. a lack of realism
2. putting my hope in the gov't!

My responses:
1. Setting aside for the moment that I disagree with how realistic it is to expect war to work in ways that peacemaking won't: Shall we decide on what's the right way to live by the criteria of realism? I mean, is it realistic to expect men to be monogamous? Wouldn't it be more realistic to say that some cheating is to be expected?

I think we agree that how "realistic" an action is ought not be the criteria by which we decide whether or not to do it.

2. I'm willing to face down terrorists, communists, Muslims and whatever other boogeymen you want to throw at me with no weapons and relying upon God for my defense. HOW exactly is that "trusting in gov't for solutions"?

I'm still waiting, Dan, for a response to my critique of what I believe to be a loaded, intellectually suspect use of the standard of WWJD.

2. I'm willing to face down terrorists, communists, Muslims and whatever other boogeymen you want to throw at me with no weapons and relying upon God for my defense. HOW exactly is that "trusting in gov't for solutions"?

Dan, Let us know when you leave to go to Iraq to stand in front of our military men and go before them to face down the terrorists, roadside bombs and bomb toting self destructing boogeymen. You are saying that from the safety of a great country that is being defended by realists. Marilyn

So you're saying, Marilyn, that you're trusting in the gov't for a solution? But I thought that was wrong...

Bubba, I'm all full up right now. I thought we were dropping this as off topic, anyway - at least here.

If you want to come to my site, I'll be glad to address whatever points you feel you have that you feel I haven't addressed (I'm not at all sure off hand what you feel I haven't addressed, but you could tell me - your amputation analogy? Poor analogy, but I'll be glad to address that when I have time).

Unless, DR tells us he wants to continue here, I'll wait to hear from you over at my place.

So you're saying, Marilyn, that you're trusting in the gov't for a solution? But I thought that was wrong...

If you thought it was wrong, Dan...why were you telling people how to vote on your site? Do you need help at night to get yourself untwisted so you can lay down in a bed? I'm can't get mad at you, instead I'm amused at how hard you have to work to have an argument.
Marilyn

I was in the process of dropping this topic altogether, Dan, and then you decided to accuse those of us who believe war is sometimes morally permissible of being clearly disobedient to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

You don't know what you haven't addressed? I find that hard to believe. Yes, I want a substantive response to my analogies of amputation and imprisonment; the mere assertion that they're poor analogies won't cut it; and if you have time to accuse Christians like me of disobedience to Christ, I think the least you can do is make the time to explain and defend that accusation.

I would have rather let the topic drop, but I will not do so if doing so lets stand such an accusation. If you insist on discussing this at your blog, that'll have to do, I suppose.

Tell me which comment thread I should join.

So... poverty then... how shall we fix the system that causes the culture of poverty?

Now that we're allowed to go back on topic.

Joe, what exactly do you mean by "culture of poverty"?

Bubba, that's the fun part. I'm not entirely sure. I haven't gotten my books in yet, but I'm researching the poverty mindset.

In part, I think I'm assuming a culture of poverty because:

1. There does seem to be a subculture in America that is primarily dependent on welfare, and sees either no hope of escape or has no desire to escape.

2. MLK, Jr. said basically that we are quick to offer the poor a penny, but that is just a band-aid to the real problem. He said that giving money wasn't the answer. Fixing the system that causes poverty is and should be the priority.

Now, when I look at the 9th Ward, for example, I see a culture that is content (for the most part) with the status quo. And moreover, I see a society in general that would prefer returning the 9th Ward to its previous status, instead of bringing the people out of their previous squalor and into a culture of hope.

Of course I'll be quick to throw in the element of hope in Christ. I'm looking at the role of Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture along with Ruby K. Payne's A Framework for Understanding Poverty and George Kelling's Fixing Broken Windows.

I think there is a direct correlation between the concept of human dignity (basic human rights and the hope that comes with them), the Broken Windows Theory, and the system that perpetuates poverty (in our case, many things, notwithstanding- welfare). These are just thoughts, but I think I may be on to something. We'll see.

Completely off-topic, but does anyone have any clue just what in the world Bruce Prescott is implying in this blog entry? A newspaper reports that Iran fires some missles, and what's his response?

"Right on schedule for the elections next week."

Is the allegation that the story's fake, planted to help the GOP in the midterm elections? Or is Bruce seriously suggesting that Iran launched those missles in order to help the Republicans?!

Bubba,

I don't think people realize how far out there Bruce Prescott really is. In June 2005 he predicted that the economy would very quickly go into recession. In September of this year he predicted that the U.S. was planning to attack Iran before the elections as an October surprise. And now this insinuation. Bruce Prescott is so far OUT of the mainstream that his website has become an oxymoronic joke. Did you see his article about the Holy Spirit, Jerry Falwell, and homosexuality? What about the heinously ridiculous article on the Mainstram site SUPPORTING partial-birth abortion? These guys can no longer consider themselves Baptists, even in the slightest way.

BTW, please email me. I would like to ask you a question. You will find my email address by clicking on the "Email Me" on my sidebar. Thanks.

The article you refer to on Mainstream Baptists website is written by Dr. Paul Simmons. I believe he teaches bio-ethics at the University of Louisville (I assume you regard UofL as the beacon of liberalism in the great state of Kentucky?).

I, myself, oppose a partial-birth abortion ban that does not make exception for the life of the mother. How heinous is that?

Now as to Dr. Prescott, you have an axe to grind with him (or from what I can tell). Before I began blogging regularly, I read Prescott and noticed that you and a few others nagged the man to death and eventually he turned comments off temporarily. That must have been frustrating...

Now as to who is a Baptist and who is not? It's obvious that many of us are not YOUR kind of Baptist. You can exclude us from participation in your Convention, but we remain Baptist....

D.R.,
I can see why you don't put out new posts very often. 69 responses going all over the map? Sheesh! I'm tempted to close responses if I get more than 10.

BDW, I am fully aware of who wrote the article on partial-birth abortion, but as of the time of this comment, not one person has written one comment against his analysis (which is chocked full of spin). Futher, Bruce Prescott doesn't even have Simmons on the sidebar as a regular contributor and as we have seen, he has the editing power of the site. So, I think he is essentially responsible for the article on his site (and I believe he agrees with Simmons, given that he did not reject the article, and must have asked Simmons to participate in some way) and that is why I sited it as another example of him being out of the "mainstream."

BTW, BDW, if you read the Congressional ban on partial-birth abortion, it cites an exception for the life of the mother (even Simmons notes this, but says it is problematic because it doesn't hold out for the health or well-being of the mother - which we all know is code for the doctors being able to do it for whatever reason they want to), but the evidence sited for the need for this provision has been challenged in the last few years as being uncredible. Much more evidence exists that this procedure would put the mother in MORE danger. There are other procedures that don't involve sucking out the child's brain matter and they are much more humane and usually much safer for the mother.

Now, as for Prescott, yes, you are right, I do have an axe to grind with him, because he apparently has an axe to grind with the SBC. And before you go and tell me (like you have done in the past) that he has some right or exception to do so, let me say that he has no right to twist men's words, bear false witness, slander, gossip, or otherwise malign men and their characters by making innuedoes, suggestions, or presenting homespun "facts". And that is why I went to his site and that is why I went on the offensive against him (and continue to do so). Prescott can dish it, but when it is turned back on his, he runs and hides, deletes his comments, or rejects logic (like he did in rejecting the foundation of our logic - the law of non-contradiction, by citing the doctrine of the Trinity, no less, which does not even come close to violating the law of non-contradiction). So, yes, you are right, we harped on him because he harped on the SBC and great men of God with distain, with character-assassination, and without the Christlike love he accused many people on his site of being without. So defend him if you wish BDW, but I think my readers have seen the real story behind Prescott.

Finally, I did not start this battle of accusing others of being unBaptistic, nor did I first suggest I was some sort of traditionalist Baptist or anaBaptist. The charge that I am not a true Baptist has been heaped on me time and time again as I don't hold to the exact understanding of religious freedom that guys like Prescott and Gourley and others think I should. Further, I interpret the historic views of soul competency and the priesthood of ALL believers differently that do these guys (I personally think they skew these doctrines to mean one's personal belief is tantamount to the truth and to reason). So I have been accused of being unBaptistic. So, what I have done in accusing others is to demostrate that we all have views that are in contradiction to the Early Christians, the anaBaptists, and the English Baptists (as well as the early American Baptists and turn of the century Baptists).

Oh, and I didn't exclude you from participation in my convention. Even the conservative resurgence didn't do that. It reasserted the line that had been crossed over time and time again by those who are paid by the denomination to do their duties in accordance with the BF&M and the historic doctrines of the SBC church. And as I have said for the record numerous times, I regret that there were excesses, false accusations, and unChristlike behaviors exhibited by those with whom I today stand, but I have yet to hear one apology from any former denomination leaders or employees who signed the BF&M (or the Abstract of Principles) while crossing their fingers.

Daniel, I emailed you yesterday; lemme know if you didn't get it.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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