Thursday, June 27, 2013

No Matter Who Won, We Lost

  It  has been interesting to watch the news coverage of the latest SCOTUS  fiasco.  As usual, the  elctronic media  hypnotists do their  dead-level  best to   misdirect you and  point your focus somewhere other than where it should be. I have seen almost no  television coverage of any substance regarding the horrific gutting of the 5th Amendment by our good friends in the 'conservative leaning' Supreme Court.  That is  massively more impactful to my day to day  life and liberty than DOMA, which was a poorly thought out law to begin with.  The media instead  have   tapped into the deeply emotional nature of the DOMA debacle, which  to me was the least surprising thing the  Supremes have done lately.  But even  while covering it, they have failed to  look at it in any depth.  The narrative is painted as a simple one reinforced with looped footage; happy  homosexuals on one side of the argument, and foaming at the  mouth religious people on the other.  I'd like to think I don't fit into either group, in fact I can assure you that I don't  qualify for the first group with my  wife as  the star witness.  but I would like to weigh in with my own analysis of  these events, and throw my 2 cents into the national debate.
  DOMA was a bad idea, because there exists nowhere in the Constitution the authority for the federal government to regulate or define marriage. I'm not even entirely certain where we got this notion from.  Legislation intended to shape or steer a society is  often the most dangerous stuff you  can dream up. Had I been a Congressman I would have voted against it.  An individual has a right to  conduct their own personal affairs and enter into any sort of  relationship that they desire. I may not approve of it, I  may even preach against it, but in the end, according to scripture they are sinning against their own body and is not something  Congress needs to pay any attention too.  I will go on further to say they  have the right to call that relationship whatever they want, but as we  say back home 'putting a cat in the oven don't make it a biscuit'.  You don't have the right to  redefine a word  to suit your own agenda at anyone else's expense.  At this point , the individuals involved have only harmed and involved themselves. DOMA gave Congress unconstitutional powers to regulate  something that only affects the people involved.
  So as an example, let's say I joined a  2 person club. Me and my  fellow club-member agree that when one of us dies, the other one gets  his stuff.  We both agree to this, and  even put it  in writing.  We decide to call our club "The  Coolest Club in the Universe". Silly? Absolutely.  You might even say that the club name is misleading ( really Mike? the whole universe?). You may not like it, you may not approve of it and even speak out against it but really, it's none of your business what we are doing, and what we call it.   What you lack is the legitimate authority to outlaw it.  Later on, we decide to expand the club parameters to allow a 3rd person to join.   Does it suddenly become your business legislatively?
  Here's where it gets hairy and here is exactly where I think , as bad an idea as DOMA is, the SCOTUS decision is just as  bad.  I now take my club and  go to your restaurant and say 'you must offer my  club the discounts and  privileges you offer other  clubs, or I will cry foul'.  A  rational response would be to assess what business impact this would have  on your restaurant, along with your personal feelings about our club, and make your decision from there.  You may decide to offer me what you have offered others, or you may  decide to tell me to  hit the bricks. Either way, I should  have no authority to FORCE you to  cater to our little group of weirdos because you are under no obligation to  honor a agreement that you weren't part of. Our club has no 'rights' other than the right to  associate with whom we please. We should not be able to force you to associate or acknowledge us.  We certainly shouldn't have the right to legislatively force you to modify your business practices to accommodate us against your  will.
  The long term fallout of the SCOTUS decision will be in its application, and my prediction is that  a new 'right' will spring out of whole cloth, and with it the justification for  the state to  force other people to acknowledge a union that they were never part of. I  expect discrimination  lawsuits and defamation campaigns to   be generated against those  that choose not to  acknowledge the latest 'club'.  Those that speak  out against the club will be vilified even worse than they already are, and their speech curtailed under the jackboot of the  police state. I expect the  heavy hand of government will  violate  people's right to association and to their own  property and business practices in order to force this new reality down every ones throats.  The end result will be less freedom for everyone, the  homosexuals included ,and more  government interference in people's bedrooms.
  Nobody wins.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good Intentions Pave the Way to Somewhere

  I have, in my circle of associates, some very well-intentioned people, who , by their good intentions often miss the bigger picture.  I feel wholly inadequate at the job of explaining the bigger picture, but here we go.
  A very nice lady  who attends my church sent me an email that was supposed to be a  real tear-jerker and a 'salute' to the  military. My  particular flavor of church tends to be very patriotic and  very supportive of  the military in general, so it's no real surprise that she would send this out.
  The email begins with  a series of pictures of a handsome young man and his  cute blond girlfriend. There they are, glowing with happiness. []

 A few pictures later, he is   in unform, wearing his EOD pin.  There are shots of him in some dusty corner of the world with fellow EOD  guys, looking sternly into the camera.  Then there are  photos of him laying in a hospital bed, tubes and  bandages all over him with  no hands and  no feet, a casualty of some sort of explosion in that dusty part of the  world.
  The photo series shifts to shots of him in physical therapy.
The cute blond girlfriend is there, her eyes fixed on him, trying to impart some of her willpower to him as he  learns to use his prosthetics.  They are both trying so hard to be brave in the face of all this, and from a  human perspective, the whole thing is  quite touching. []
 The  pictures show  various shots of their travels together. He hooks his stubs around her neck and she carries him like a  backpack as they  go  from place to place, still smiling, still trying their best to be brave.  They marry, and the pictures show the  brave young married couple, carrying on despite the enormous burden of his shattered body.

For this I am supposed to be thankful.  I am spposed  to be thankful that young men like I used to be are wiling to go to the  dusty parts of the world and  get their limbs blown off so that I can be free.  I am supposed to be grateful that  this young man and his pretty blond wife aren't bitter towards what  was required of them and what will be required of them for the rest of their lives.  I'm just having a hard time swallowing it.

  Let me ask you this question, gentle reader; how did this help?  I understand that his life is now worse, but how is my life any better because of his sacrifice?  What part of my life and  what freedoms that remain can I point to and say 'his limbs helped buy that'?  I mean if one guy with no  limbs makes it good, wouldn't a mountain of men with no limbs make it better?  Wouldn't my life be just as good, and his life  much better, if he had stayed home? Is that part of the  world where he left his arms and legs safer because of  what happened? And how would you prove that?

  I know what my reaction is supposed to be, per the mindset of the  email sender. I am supposed to be grateful.  I'm supposed to reflect on the sacrifice made.The emotion I find myslf feeling however, is great  sorrow at the  pointlessness of it all, and a neccesity to  somehow apologize to what   the  ambitions of misguided and sometimes evil men did to this man's life.  But not only  do I lack the ability to feel what I'm 'supposed ' to feel over this, I feel most of the time that I lack the words to say to  sincere people who  just don't see it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This Is the Post That Loses Some Readers

 Let me  start off by saying this; People may have similar goals for vastly disimilar reasons. People can cooperate  towards an end even when the  accomplishment or  implementation of that end may divide them.  Great things can be accomplished by people who don't see eye to eye on everything.
   I also need to put out there that as a Christian, and a self-proclaimed  libertarian, I  feel sometimes that I tread between two camps.  I wrote a book about the 2012 Ron Paul campaign, and for that, on occassion some Christians have told me that I  have become unnecessarily conerned and entangled with the affairs of this world. That's one side of the aisle. On the other side of the aisle are people who are politically interested and have been very kind regarding my politcial cartoons and my writings, but have  little interest in my Saviour. Those people want to know why I'm always blathering on about the Bible.
  I am in favor of polital liberty and economic liberty, but real liberty is only available through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his death on the cross. A man in a Soviet gulag who knows Jesus is freer than any American who doesn't. So many in the liberty movement care nothing about the liberty of the soul, and so many Christians care little about politics or economics other than to reassure themselves that the GOP has their best interests at heart. Once again, I feel I walk between two camps.

Several years back when I was still doing a great deal of self-examination as to what I believed and why, I began writing some pieces for a libertarian website. The pieces were very well received, but when my Biblical worldview began to reveal itself, I was ostracized by the other contributors. That particular group saw allegiance to anything higher than themselves as a type of self-imposed tyranny. When Jerry Falwell passed away this group rejoiced, calling him a 'statist'. I warned them that, though Falwell and I had vast differences of opinion, evangelical Christians were not the ideological enemy. I said that the liberty position could be explained. It's a reasonable position for reasonable people, but if evangelicals felt that the liberty movement was hostile towards them, then the larger message is lost and the establishment GOP wins. I stand by that sentiment, and point to Ron Paul's success among church folks as proof that the two camps aren't as far apart as some would have you believe.

People support liberty for a variety of reasons, some intensly personal, which is exactly the sort of thing you would expect from a group of individuals. We don't need to agree on the reasons to agree on the goal. I am commanded by scripture to preach the gospel and one of my reasons for supporting liberty is that a free society provides the optimum environment to do just that. Were I a subject in North Korea and a Christian, I would be under the same commandment, but with much less liberty to accomplish it. I therefore strive for a politcal climate that affords me the least state intrusion, and occassionally lend my writing talents or my drawing talents to that end. If that makes me a compromiser to one group, and a Bible thumper to the other group, well I suppose that's just too bad.

I am free after all, aren't I?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Christians and Taxes

 There is a pastor in central Florida for whom I have an immense amount of respect.  I know him, though I doubt he knows me, even though we have participated in  a handful of evangelistic events with  his congregation.  I was listening to a message he had preached a few years back, and I found that I   disagree with him profoundly.
  The topic at hand was taxes, and before I get to our disagreement, I want to cover the areas where I think he is absolutely correct.  The text that he was examining was Matt 22:15-22

Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.  And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying , Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth , neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.  Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said , Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?  Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription ?  They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.  When they had heard these words, they marvelled , and left him, and went their way .
  It’s a common discussion among certain Christian circles as to whether or not it’s appropriate for a Christian to pay taxes. I have friends that are on all sides of this issue, even sme that have proven their convictins with prison time but this particular pastor (whom I’ll refer to as ’J’) , while examining the text, made some points that I think are worth bringing out, to wit;
1)      The people bringing this topic up  didn’t really want his opinion, they were hoping to entangle him
2)      In doing so, they drew attention away from things that were really important
3)      They began by trying to flatter him
4)      The Bible refers to this  attempt to cause strife and contention  with flattery and foolish questions as ‘wickedness’
5)      Even though they opposed the Roman monetary system, they still used it ( more on this point later)
6)      Jesus told them to pay their taxes

 ‘J’ went on to make the larger point that complying with the often ridiculous ordinances of man will give your enemies less ammunition and gives them less of an opportunity to  hinder the work of the gospel. As grievous as some of the ordinances are, our calling as Christians isn’t to spend our lives opposing them, but to comply as much as we can as we go about the much higher job of evangelism.   Of course taxation is theft, J said, but the lost man you’re trying to witness to pays his taxes, so you should too. He said that he would rather stand before God having tolerated government thievery and kept his testimony than to stand before God having wiggled his way around the rules and wasted his life with the effort.  All of these are superb points, and a good reminder to keep the main thing the main thing.
  But a few minutes later, this pastor remarked at length of what he saw as hypocrisy among anti-tax people (or anti-FED people or limited government people) in that they will still use the services they are opposed to.   He said he had never met anybody opposed to the Federal Reserve System that didn’t have FED notes in their wallet. People that are opposed to government roads still drive on them. People that want to privatize the police still call the government police when they need them. He saw this as hypocrisy, and this is where I disagree.
  My disagreement is simple. I have little choice, save jail, but to go along with the government’s thievery.  He roads I drive on, the Post Office I use to mail letters, the police and fire departments,  , I helped pay for. It’s not hypocrisy for me to use what I paid for after the money was stolen from me to pay for it.  Also, especially in the examples I cited, the government’s monopoly of force has forced me to use their services. I can’t choose to mail a letter and NOT use the Post Office. I can’t choose to drive to town and NOT use government roads.  So I’m not CHOOSING to use them, and that lack of choice frees me from hypocrisy.  If I had a choice and I still decided to avail myself of things I have already paid for at the point of a gun rather than pay twice, I see no hypocrisy there either.
  Now certain government services we pay for, and refuse to use, such as the   government school system. I hate that I pay for it, but it’s stolen from me. I can’t stop that, but I still have a choice as to whether or not I use it, so I abstain. I abstain for a wide variety of reasons, with one of the main reasons being that I have the ability. 
  Or am I wrong?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Am In Grave Danger of Becoming A Sentimental Old Sap

  A few years back, I started taking pictures at some of the street meetings I had organized or attended. I was a little hesitant for what turned out to be a bunch of really stupid reasons.  I knew some guys, and one guy in particular that photographed and videoed everything and then posted the videos online to show how ‘brave’ or ‘tough’ or ‘sold out for God’ they were. All their videos had titles like “Brave Street Preacher Squares Off Against the Wicked Sinners” or some such idiocy.  In the case of still photography, they would put together these massive scrapbooks detailing their ministry exploits that they would then foister upon younger street preachers. I know a guy that literally wouldn’t preach unless somebody had a camera. The whole vibe was “Look what I have done”, and I didn’t want to be that guy.
  I had shared these concerns with my own ‘great white father’ in the ministry and he told me “When you get older, you’re going to need those pictures.”  So I started taking a picture here and there. For example, every year we go to the same spot in Savannah and take a picture in front of the same statue.  Every time we preach with the good folks in Deland I try to get a picture. There’s a shot of my by myself in St. Augustine outside the old city gates, and a shot of me in Beaufort, SC.  There’s a group of us outside the stadium in Jacksonville. If you come to my house, in a corner of my living room you’ll see a cluster of frames on the wall, and inside those frames are the pictures I’ve taken.  The cluster has outgrown my frame supply, and I have pictures tucked in the corner of the frames of other pictures. It’s probably not the first thing you’ll see when you come in; in fact you may never notice it unless I show it to you.  But to me, that cluster in the corner has become one of my most precious possessions.
  That little corner of my house has not become a monument to the great things I’ve done, because I haven’t done any great things.  It has become a small, humbling reminder of what God has allowed this old wretch to do for his sake. The focus in these pictures, at least for me, isn’t what I’ve done, but who God has allowed me to do it with.  There’s a shot of Colton just before he hit his growth spurt where one year he’s halfway up the statue, and the next year he’s blocking out the words on the statue.   There’s  Darnell, who is usually the handsomest man in any picture we take together. There’s my kids in strollers, and Douglas before he was married. There’s a shot of Donnie at his first time out with us, and Miss Anita and Miss Darlene, and Doug’s eventual wife Rachel. There are even pictures of Aubrey and Natalie, plus one picture where I know they were there, but he couldn’t find a parking spot so they’re not in the picture.  These are the real treasures of life, the friends God has given me, and allowed me to serve with.   When I’m down, which happens way more often than it should, and way more often than   probably anybody suspects. I will walk over to that corner of my house and look at these pictures and remind myself that my life and my ministry are not in vain. Here are people that have trusted me and served with me, and wept with me.
Yeah, Sutek was right, as usual, I already need those pictures.