January 2010

29 Jan 2010

I caught parts of the State of the Union (SOTU) last night. That’s better than I did the past 10 years. SOTU speeches are basically lists of proposed handouts delivered in a torrent of high-toned cliches (“We must answer history’s call”), accompanied by the Swiftian spectacle of Congresspersons (ahem) ostentatiously barking their approval in the bright lights.

Anyway, the guy who played Obama was spot-on. There were many fine moments, such as when he promised to freeze government spending for three years… except for Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Then he told us that the “worst of the storm has passed.”

However, best of all:

Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.

Yes, it’s the Broken Window Fallacy in action, and Obama’s hero in the example is a glazier! Nice!

It has to be the most unintentionally funny line ever delivered in a SOTU.

24 Jan 2010

The Blind Side offers a kind of liberal Hollywood version of conservative values: all rock-solid valor, all the time. -Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly.

I haven’t seen the movie, but that’s a very perceptive comment.

We often see Hollywood portraying Christians as perverted hypocrites. When someone proclaims (i.e. repeats, based on the plain meaning of Scriptures) God’s judgment against sins like homosexuality, it’s all too easy to change the subject by highlighting the hypocrisies of the Christian. You don’t have to dig too far into anyone’s life to find hypocrisy and sin. We’re all a mess.

However, I never really thought before about how Hollywood creates the even more unreal “rock-solid” Christian who always acts with purpose and kind intentions. This creates a useful standard to judge Christians against, since no one is really this way (though some are closer than others).

I’ve been disappointed by other Christians at times, shocked to see someone I thought saintly to have some weird sinful tendency– egotism here, self-righteousness there. And yet, why should I be surprised that another man deals with envies, lusts, self-absorption, and anger just like I do?

You never see the real Christian life in movies. You never see characters who distrust their own motives. You don’t see those who recognize their ongoing need of a Savior, which only deepens as their sanctification proceeds. You don’t see people who know they need to be forgiven regularly. You don’t see folks warring against their own fallen hearts and minds. You don’t see an ebb and flow to their faithfulness. And you surely don’t see Christians whose proclamation of God’s forthcoming judgment comes from a sure understanding of their own horror of standing naked before a holy God, without the banner of Christ’s righteousness.

That describes the Christians I know. They are flawed, sometimes idiotically so, but they are forgiven. They know on what Rock they stand and and they evince wondrous evidences of God’s work in them all along the way. In the end, they are humbly relying on a righteousness not their own (Romans 3).

It’d be much harder for the heroic and perverted protagonist of countless films to be seen as prevailing against such an antagonist.

20 Jan 2010

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom. -Garet Garrett, 1954

I was at a children’s function a month or two ago at a Lutheran church (ELCA). During it, they did the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t join in.

Have you ever thought about the pledge? Joe Sobran once noted that the phrase many want to remove– “under God”– is the only good part of it. The Pledge was written by a 19th-century socialist. It speaks against secession (“indivisible”), which is something that the Founders saw as a necessary bulwark against Federal tyranny. Unlike the National Anthem, the pledge calls on us to… make a pledge. It’s not a binding oath in the sense that I will be prosecuted for disobeying it, but why would I want to say something I do not necessarily believe? Christians believe that kingdom of Christ supersedes the state. Why would a man leave a wayward denomination (where he may have once given membership vows) and yet pledge unqualified allegiance to his country?

I admire the soldiers who risk their lives overseas. However, the U.S. is broke. We need these kids here in America. We need them producing stuff instead of consuming resources. All government employees, soldiers included, are consuming resources. Peter Schiff once created an illustration to explain America’s interaction with foreigners since the end of World War II. Consider an island, he said, where a couple of foreigners and an American are stranded. One foreigner’s job is to gather the wood. Another creates the fire. Another obtains the food. They come to the American and ask what his job will be. His answer: He’ll eat the food.

Government employees are eating the food.

Military spending is a key contributor to what is likely to be more calamitous for this country: a currency crisis caused by overspending. Conservatives rail about government spending, and yet unflinchingly support massive military spending. This defeats the purpose. If even 20% of the populace denied legitimacy to 99% of federal spending (and that includes Medicare, social security, and war spending), I’m guessing that would be a huge problem for the legitimacy of the federal government. Things would change. Among those who should know better (including me a few years ago), the military is the best possible propaganda for federal legitimacy and overreach. People believe dubious claims that soldiers in, say, Iraq, are “fighting for our freedoms.” I don’t question our soldiers’ motives. I do question the government’s motives and the real effect of interventions like this.

The government isn’t “protecting our freedoms” overseas. They are ticking off people who do not want foreign troops in their country. Foreigners may strike back repulsively, but in the same way that you don’t flash jewels in a bad neighborhood and expect to come out unscathed, you shouldn’t blow things up in pagan lands.

Joe Sobran once quipped that the Constitution poses no threat to our current form of government. Other than setting terms of office, the Constitution has been a dead letter for generations. It isn’t even a small speed bump for Congress. The massive entitlements that are far and away the greatest financial threat to the country are all unconstitutional. Every war since World War II has been undeclared. The federal bureaucracy has over 14 million (the figure is probably much larger by now) employees and/or contractors. The Constitution hasn’t changed in the past 50 years, but federal spending has risen steeply. So much for “limited, constitutional government.” Were they still celebrating the republic in imperial Rome?

The older I get, the more I’m questioning “first things” when it comes to politics. Pundits debate who should run the Fed. Better to debate why the Fed should exist in the first place. People debate what the president is or is not doing. It’d be better if people were questioning whether the presidency itself is really a good idea.

The government wants us to believe that it protects our freedoms and rights. It’s easier to prove that government works to restrict our God-given rights. By spending our money and issuing regulations, they take our fields and redistribute them (c.f. 1 Sam 8:14). I think it was Milton Friedman who correctly noted that all government spending is taxation. Politicians are simply connected people who administer goodies to others for political and financial benefit. Congressmen parlay their connections into quite lucrative careers after leaving office, in areas like banking and lobbying that benefit lavishly from political connections.

One way to consider fighting back against the government is to stop, as much as legally possible, feeding it. Stop buying its bonds, use Fedex instead of the post office, don’t join the military, avoid funding public schools as much as possible, etc. Stop feeding into the legitimacy of the current American state as if it is run by anything other than corrupt power-mongers. Don’t buy the lie that a Republican takeover is the answer.

Yes, I know, we live in a fallen world. However, the Bible doesn’t get sentimental about Rome. Paul used his prerogatives as a Roman citizen, but his letters are bereft of state worship. Jesus steered clear of Judean politics. He and John the Baptist knew who Herod was.

Maybe Christians should take a hint from this.

12 Jan 2010

I’m out of the loop with popular culture, but apparently a book called The Shack is very popular. There are many articles and podcasts dissecting its errors. For example, here and here and here.

I first heard of The Shack when family members mentioned that it discusses the Trinity. Just a tip: When a popular work discusses the Trinity, warning flags should go up. Historically, attacks on the Trinity have been at the core of all sorts of heresies.

One of the chief heresies of the last century is feminism. While feminism may seem spent as a political phenomenon, its errors have invaded the church so deeply that they are unrecognized. Feminists hate the doctrine of the Trinity, not only because it speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “He,” but also because it is a model of godly submission. The Son submits to the father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in the same way that the church submits to Christ, wives submit to husbands, children obey parents, slaves obey masters, etc. (Ephesians 5:22-24, Ephesians 6). The head is then called to love the one submitting.

Here’s a helpful article on the Trinity.