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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 8, 2016

May 18

To Peter Rieth and his blogpost whether Christians could vote for Trump and how he is a reflection of the failure of American Democracy. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

This article has good and bad points. But in the end, it isn't just the elites who are to blame, it is we the people as well. Because we have believed in our own greatness and regard ourselves as being exceptional, the idea that we could fail democracy flew in under our radar. And because we are content with Capitalism's material benefits, we are too apathetic to challenge the elites as has been done in the past.


May 20

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on who can teach Sunday School. The question at hand is whether women and other laity are allowed to teach according to the Scriptures. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

Personally, I think the regulative principle sends us on some wild goose chases for principles that we can use to cover ourselves. Who can teach Sunday School is a case in point. Since we have no firm examples of women teaching, we make a general rule for Sunday School despite the possibility that women could have had teaching positions (Aquila and Phoebe). The endless search for principles for some of more and more decisions increases the authoritarianism that runs rampant in Conservative Churches. And here I would like to distinguish between submitting to proper authority structures and authoritarianism. The latter consists of the former on steroids. With the proper submission to authority structures, there is a recognition of the responsibilities of those over us. With authoritarianism, the truth of what is said depends too much on the credentials of the source. Of course, it is one thing to submit to teaching because of what Jesus or the Apostles said, but they provide special cases. It is another thing when we do the same with the Westminster Divines or Calvin or any other authority figure in the Church. With authoritarianism, the laity tries to prove its spirituality cred by how well they know and submit to later figures like the Westminster Divines and Calvin and how they show disdain for fellow Christians who have different views from what is accepted in one's group. It also causes people in the Church to be too insular in the sources they use for understanding the world around them.

What we need to understand is that too much emphasis on authority, or authoritarianism, makes for passive learners in the Church pews. And as these passive learners lose the ability to think through what is taught, they also lose the ability to think through what is going on in the world around them. And that suits some who have authority in the Church fine because that makes people more dependent on them and it maintains group think. The sad result is that we lose the ability to reach out to groups of people who are different from us in ideology, personality type, and social groups. To show this, we might take a survey of members of conservative Reformed churches to see how many are voting for other than a politically conservative candidate. If America has a bias against authority, history suggests that it is because too many authority figures have abused their position causing great harm to those under them.

And all of this quest for authority, both by those who want to hold authority and those who want to sit under it is due to the regulative principle and how it sometimes causes us to act like the Pharisees when Jesus was incarnate on earth. And though the topic of the above article is on who can teach Sunday School, the method of answering the question shows the sometimes over reliance on the regulative principle.


May 26

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quote stating that the new actions by the government to recognize rights of the LGBTQ community will lead to the abolishment of our gender classification and to the state’s ability to consolidate more power. This appeared in Heidelblog while the quote came from an article in the Witherspoon Institute website.

The above quote is taken from the series The Sky Is Falling Because Society's Mores Are Changing. The lines from the article from which the above quote is taken says the following:

It will serve to outlaw speech that identifies males as males and females as females. At the moment, it may not seem that way, since we see people striving to pass as one specific sex or the other. But, trust me, we’re all being forced to “transition” into conformity of thought.

The only substantiation for the claim is a New York City Human Rights Law that deals with some sort of official communication with those who are transgendered and a new federal form that replaces mother and father with parent 1 and 2. And both the law and the form are there to recognize the rights and existence of a group that many of us religiously conservative Christians have always had disdain for: the LGBTQ community. However, we are still to trust the opinion of this writer that the state will require that we will not only be forced to ignore gender reality of others, that the recognition of our own gender will be lost as well.

All of this is because the government is trying to further the recognition of the civil rights of those from the LGBTQ community. And this community is a very small percentage of the population. 

Of course, according to the author, the recognition of civil rights raises the red flags of a coming tyranny when she writes at the very beginning of her article:

As usual, tyranny comes disguised as “civil rights.”

Here we might ask this question: How much tyranny has resulted from the recognition of civil rights? We might also ask for the identity of those groups where the recognition of their civil rights has resulted in tyranny.

I think that the title for the blogpost on Heidelblog is correct. It is about control. But it isn't about the control sought by the state or others; it is about the control lost by us from the conservative Christian community and how we cry that the sky is falling because of that lost control. And if you don't believe me about whether this is about a loss of our control over society's mores, consider the recent past and how we have battled against issues like same-sex marriage or by how some of us have pushed for Jim Crow like laws allowing Christian businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Or look at the 29 states that allow employers to dismiss employees from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. It is such tyranny for some of us when we lose the right to discriminate against a group that many of us wished were invisible. Wasn't the invisibility of the LGBTQ community the reason why our past laws and some of the present ones were written? 


May 30

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on distinguishing between patriotism and the pulpit. In this blogpost, he made claims about America being exceptional in terms of the freedoms it promoted for its own people and others. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

I understand the sentiment expressed here because I use to think that way about our nation; but history prohibits this kind of thinking.  Our entry into WW I was to save our banks that had lent money to the nations that were losing and to help arms makers and other industries that grow rich from war. Smedley Butler wrote about how our entry into conflicts was more due to helping the rich with their foreign holdings than for any ideals (see http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html  and http://fas.org/man/smedley.htm ). And well before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Helen Keller warned us that our imperial possessions in the Pacific would be a cause for war with Japan (see https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/16_01_05.htm )

We need to note that the Korean War was a war between two dictatorships where both sought to silence political opponents inside their ownnations for the same reason: to unite the two Koreas under their control.  Yes, the North invaded and we had sided with the South. But look at whom we had sided with. And note how after expelling the North Korean from the South, we then invaded North Korea and that invited the Chinese entry into the war. And it wasn't until over 30 years later that South Korea would experience any kind of free political system.

Or we could talk about Vietnam with our rejection of the Geneva Accords and its call for the reunification of Vietnam to be determined democratically. In fact, we had made an agreement with France during WW II where we promised to help them recolonize Vietnam. And when they were unable to accomplish that, we supported dictator after dictator and finally we invaded the nation. As a result of our invasion and bombings, not only did we kill millions of Vietnamese civilians, we destabilized Cambodia as we extended the bombings there and drove some there to support the murderous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. We should also note that in fighting against North Vietnam, we were turning our backs on a WW II ally: Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnam War was about us preventing North and South Vietnam from reuniting. They were divided as a way to root out the Japanese toward the end and after the war. And we never let the South Vietnamese vote on whether they should reunite with the North Vietnam.

Or we could talk about how we supported Batista's dictatorship in Cuba or that of Somoza's in Nicaragua only to support or conduct terrorist wars on those nations after their respective revolutions that followed those dictatorships. And we could also talk about how we trained military and paramilitary troops on how to attack liberation theologians in Central American countries. 

In short, without counting what we did prior to WW II, we have intervened in over 50 nations since the end of WW II with over 30 of those nations being democracies or carrying out democratic processes and in an overwhelming number of those latter cases, we replaced democracy with totalitarian rule. And what was our justification in doing all of that? Our justification revolved around who we weren't rather than who we were.

In other areas of the world, we supported the Shah in Iran and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. We supported Osama Bin Laden and his terrorism in Afghanistan simply to draw the Soviet Union into their own Vietnam. We supported Mubarak and al-Sisi in Egypt despite their attacks on the human rights of the people there. And we still support the dictatorships of  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and any other regime that follows orders. Remember what brought about our decision to attack Iraq during George H. W. Bush's presidency. It was Saddam's invasion of  Kuwait. Until then, we were providing Iraq with materials for WMDs even after he used them on his own people and on Iran.

And by saying that the War on Terror started on 9-11-2001, we are simply exercising a bit of narcissism by showing that we think that the world revolves around what happens us. In truth, the 9-11 atrocities were a response to the American and British led sanctions on Iraq that, along with the first Persian Gulf War, were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. In addition, we have consistently supported Israel's brutal occupation against the Palestinians where Israel constantly seeks to expand by taking Palestinian land.

And what are we doing today? We still overthrow governments. Libya is one case in point that some could argue for? But what possible justification could there be for our participation in the 2009 coup in Honduras and our support for the new government? 

And while our abuse of Blacks during the slave years and the subsequent Jim Crow years was duly noted, where was the mention of the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land?

Have there been times when our nation has acted to help some gain freedom? In a scant number of cases, that is true. In the vast overwhelming number of cases, it is false.

By claiming that our nation is exceptional, some have only shown that they are normal. For it is quite normal for people to claim that their nation is above all others in virtue. Germany has done that. So have the Swiss. And so have the French and others. Claiming to be special is normal. And failing to be special is History's verdict on each of those claims, including our own.

I like what Bobby Seale said about nationalism. He rejected it because like racism, it was based on the belief in the superiority of one's own group.  But perhaps even that is preferable to what is coming via our current form of Capitalism. With each new trade agreement and organization we join, we lose more of our voice in our "democracy" to the interests of investors.

Yes, it is good to say that the Church must have only one flag: that of the Lord Jesus. And we should honor those who gave their lives for their country. But with that honor, we must realize that sometimes the ones we are honoring are those who defended our nation from others while, at other times, we must realize that the ones we should be honoring are those who gave their lives to defend their country from us.


May 31

To Sarah Stanley and her blogpost citing Samuel Gregg’s work that predicts that Social Democracy would hurt the American Dream. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

There are problems with Gregg's analysis besides the failure to recognize that the proletariat dictatorship never came to fruition. For what we have in Europe is a political social democracy wedded to neoliberal capitalism and the two just have irreconcilable differences. Thus it is natural for someone who believes in today's free markets and the neoliberal capitalism it incorporates to be so gloomy about social democracy. For as one side recognizes the responsibilities that come with our current state of interdependence, the other side is in denial of both our interdependence and our responsibilities.

Greece is a prime example of how well Social Democracy goes with neoliberal capitalism. With its economic crisis having started with our economic collapse of 2008 and the corruption between moneyed-interests and its politicians, Greece found itself in economic turmoil. This resulted in a never ending spiral of an ever increasing debt and borrowing. Over 90% of the borrowing is used to pay foreign lenders and the loans are conditioned on the implementation of austerity measures that even the IMF says hurt the economy. So while the austerity measures hurts Greece's economy, Greece's economic economy fails and thus it defaults on its loans and that demands more borrowing. But, as mentioned before, the lenders receive the bulk of the new loans while nothing is done to fix Greece's structural problems that create the debt in the first place.

The key objection Gregg has to social democracy is that its basic structure of 'enveloping citizens from birth to death in a web of protections and benefits that seek to shield people from life’s uncertainties ' is not sustainable. But the alternative that is never to be named or mentioned is Social Darwinism. And with Social Darwinism eventually comes the death penalty for all who don't make it in the market economy. And even though our economic welfares are more interconnected now than ever before, the denial of our interdependence is the catalyst that transforms regulated markets into free ones. And what is left behind are those who couldn't contribute enough to those free markets while what lies in future is a new political landscape where boundaries become more and more dependent on economic lines than national borders. This is why Europe is becoming more and more governed by Brussels than by its elected governments. The growing wealth disparity in Europe gives evidence of the tension between social democracy and free markets (see http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=3954 ).

Thus, the difference between Europe and us rests in a matter of years with Europe heading in our direction. Currently, our non social democracy has produced both the most wealth and the highest wealth disparity (see http://fortune.com/2015/09/30/america-wealth-inequality). But with that wealth disparity has come what should be a political power disparity resulting in us exchanging democracy for oligarchy (see http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746). This would indicate that free markets not only do not work and play well with social democracy as Europe's growing wealth disparity and the list of the top 10 nations in wealth disparity shows, it indicates that free markets don't work and play well with what was American democracy either. And why Conservatives are blind to this is because they only think of power as being equal to government authority. They don't realize that power can and does consolidate where wealth consolidates.

Noting how America's free markets has also produced the world's greatest wealth disparity along with a loss of democracy, we need to ask Stanley whose American Dream could actually be harmed by a real Social Democracy? We should note that what Sanders calls Social Democracy is not Marxist, it is an updated form of FDR's New Deal. And there is no gradual transition from that to Marx's proletariat dictatorship.


To Joe Carter and his blogpost on 9 facts we should know about nuclear weapons This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website

There is a missing fact about nuclear weapons here. That fact is that they could destroy human life on earth.


June 1

To Sarah Stanley her blogpost citing Joe Carter’s article attributing Venezuela’s problems to authoritarianism. This appeared in the Acton blog

Venezuela could hardly be considered a success story prior to Chavez that is unless one wants to minimize the significance of past authoritarianism as well as corruption. Certainly the problems that Venezuela is experiencing are due to elite-centered rule; but who isn't experiencing problems from that type of governing. We are as those with wealth have so much of the ear of our elected representatives that our system now considered to be an oligarchy rather than a Democracy (see http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746 ).

But with Chavez's deficiencies in how he ruled, which was discussed at NYC's Left Forum in 2015, he did experience some extraordinary resistance both from within his own nation and from without. From within his own nation there is the main organization that represents businesses: the FEDECAMERAS. This group is doing what they can to regain power in Venezuela including organizing a general strike (see https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/setting-the-record-straight-on-venezuela/ ). In addition, there is a continuance of fraud in Venezuela. We should note that fraud brought to the end one Venezuelan President in 1993.

There are also outside obstacles to the Venezuela's current government. There is evidence that the US was involved in the 2002 attempted coup to overthrow Chavez which failed because of how the people of Venezuela supported him in the streets. In addition, sanctions and accusations that Venezuela was involved in drug smuggling and terrorism as well as implied threats of attacks have been made by the US. That the US has been guilty of trying to destabilize other gov'ts that it does not like tells us that these statements about US involvement in contributing to some of Venezuela's problems should be investigated (see https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/us-aggression-against-venezuela-fact-not-fiction/ ).

Of course, some of Venezuela's problems are due to decisions made by Chavez. But he should not be scapegoated for its problems especially since some of today's problems are merely repeats of problems from the past including authoritarianism and corruption. In addition, we should note that not all of the news coming out of Venezuela is bad. There have been advances made in terms of education, healthcare, and housing (see https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuelas-crisis-from-up-close/ ).

We should note that the the economic system favored by Carter, who was referenced by the writer of the blogpost,  exhibits just as much authoritarianism as what could be attributed to Chavez. It seems that some conservatives can only see problems with authoritarianism in governments, especially those they don't favor. They have trouble seeing authoritarianism being displayed in and from the private sector.

In the end, most systems fail when at least one of its significant players insist on not sharing power and decision making with other groups. And unless we learn how to cooperate better, the system we live in will eventually collapse.


To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on what are the true marks of the Church. The question came to mind when some visitors to some Reformed churches found the people there to be cold. This appeared in Heidelblog.

There is a disconnect here. The disconnect is that the Church is made up of believers, but, according to the Belgic Confession, the marks of the True Church is determined by the practices of a very small subset of those believers called elders in Presbyterian terms. In the meantime, the marks of the believer are faith, sanctification, and love. So when visitors complain that they did not experience a congregation to be warm and loving, as long as the elders do their job, then those visitors came to a true church though the church is made up of believers.

It isn't that our confessions have nothing to contribute. To believe that would be to err on the side of narcissism in that one believes that the truths and values held to from one's own time are so superior that there is no need to learn from the past.

But on the other hand, the reluctance to criticize the Church's confessions and standards is a kind of authoritarianism that has its parallels to narcissism only it reverses the paradigm. It says that the truths and values held to from the past are so superior to that which are held to today that those from the past having nothing to learn from those living today. This makes authoritarianism and narcissism different sides of the same coin.

The problem here is when the confessions and standards from the past fail to emphasize the same truths and values of what the Scriptures emphasize such as in Galatians 5:6:

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love

Here, I believe that the Belgic Confession regarding the true marks of the Church is neither not without merit nor is it without need for criticism and revision.


June 2

To R. Scott Clark and his short blogpost quote stating how the horror of abortion is still with us. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

It's not the bureaucrats' fault, it is the law. The impetus to change the law will never come about for as long as the pro-life cause is so closely tied to conservative politics. Why? It is because there is too much support for patriotism and capitalism in conservative politics to realize how what is being supported is not pro-life for those who have been born. Somehow, pro-lifers are going to have to reach out to political nonconservatives in order to enlarge their tent before the law will be changed.


To Bradley Birzer and his blogpost about mistakes made by the founding fathers. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative Blog.

We can't fully understand The Constitution when we place it and its writers on the pedestal that many do. And we usually place them on such pedestals when we decontextualize the document and the actions and words of the writers. That decontextualization revolves around forgetting the economic class to which most of the writers belonged as well as the events that gave impetus to the writing of the document. The reason for the writing of the document had more to do with empowering a weak confederation in order that it could better respond to dissent and insurrection like what occurred with Shays Rebellion.

In fact, noting Shays Rebellion and reviewing the 2nd Amendment. we only need to note that that Amendment talked about the right to bear arms in the context of the need to have a militia. And when one looks up the Constitutional references regarding the militia, we find that Congress is to provide the necessary funds for arming and training the militia while the militia itself was under the command of the President and its existence was to repel invasions and put down insurrections. Though here Yates' notes on the Constitutional Debates are subject to debate so that the validity of Madison's quote regarding the job of the government is to 'protect the minority of the opulent against the majority' is in doubt, doesn't Madison say in one of his own writings something to the effect that power belongs to those with wealth who have proved themselves? Such would, to a degree, confirm that the statement in question fits in with Madison's thought.

Yes, Birzer's article here is about the mistakes of the founders. And yet, even with those mistakes, both The Constitution and its writers are still placed on a pedestal too high to be supported by history.

Now aside from his harsh and unjustified judgment of FDR, Birzer has some concerns that people should share. But the concept of limited government does not always fit with the concept of the government protecting people from their enemies. For government to provide such protection, it needs to be bigger than those enemies whether those enemies are foreign or domestic. Considering that on this blog, there has been a growing recognition of the threat that some private sector elites pose to the American people, government should not necessarily be judged by size. That is because government is like love, size doesn't matter, fidelity does. And it is up to us, the people, to ensure that government is faithful to all of us, not just to those with wealth.

A concern that Birzer has that I fully share regards the general ethics and moral values of the people. For there is no political and/or economic system devised that can succeed regardless of the moral code followed by the people. The problem becomes determining what set of values should the nation adopt in the light of the religious freedom we enjoy. I also share Birzer's assessment that The Constitution is not being sufficiently followed today. In fact, it is concern not just of Birzer and conservatives, it has been a long time concern of many Leftists.


June 4

To Matthew Hall and his blogpost on reasons why we should learn Church History. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition Website.

Having taught a course in world religions, I can vouch for the need to read Church history. But beware that much of our history contains scenes that are for neither the squeamish nor the romantics. Our predecessors have been guilty of some terrible crimes and of oppression. And we need to learn these not so shining moments of our history to realize what we are capable of. It isn't just those people in the past who sin, it is us too. And despite being Christians, we are capable of doing some horrible things to others.

I found Church history to be both necessary to learn and depressing. But those depressing parts can bring a necessary sobriety to how we view ourselves and the Church.

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