Is Socialism more “Pro-Life” than Capitalism?

05/31/2005: Former Southern Seminary professor Glenn Stassen–currently of Fuller Theological Seminary–dropped a serious hot potato in October. A supporter of more socialized health care, he helped promote a Christian opposition to President Bush during the last election cycle. In a widely-published editorial , Stassen suggested that more socialist government policies will lead to a decline in abortions.

(For the record, I have no personal gripe with Stassen. When I was at Southern Seminary, he was one of two professors–David Gushee was the other–who agreed to serve as faculty advisors for the pro-life organization at Southern. (I co-wrote the by-laws for it.) We couldn’t get a professor to sign on, but Gushee and Stassen had the guts. For that, Stassen deserves credit where credit is due.)

According to his research, abortions increased under Bush where they decreased under Clinton. This would have been a fairly compelling argument except that there were significant flaws in a couple of key assertions:

(1) His data–and his analysis of it–was seriously incomplete. points this out. (NOTE: As of May 25, Stassen has retracted his 16-state abortion analysis, while maintaining his criticisms of the Bush administration.)

(2) He made a sweeping assumption that economic downturns and abortion rates are correlatable. That assumption may be gratuitous, and require more exhaustive research. In fact, if I were a PhD student, that might make a nice dissertation project, but I digress…

O’Bannon provides effective commentary regarding the first and second points. I’ll defer to him on the first point, and throw my own two cents in on the second…

If Stassen is correct, then he is making a case for unfettered Capitalism, as market economies have vastly outperformed socialist economies by wide margins, delivering goods and services and wealth creation that improves life quality far above centrally-planned economies.

If Stassen believes that government health care–which would involve central control over the health care system–is more effective than a market-driven solution, then how does he explain the abortion declines in former Soviet satellites such as Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, and Romania ( I mention those because–unlike Western Europe–the newly-liberated Eastern bloc countries are embracing market economy and eschewing the Keynesian economics that defines the prevailing policy apparatus in Western Europe.

Before the Soviet Union fell, these countries had centrally-controlled health care systems, with very high abortion rates to boot. As they have moved away from socialism (even health care is undergoing a slow privatization process), their abortion rates have also fallen.

Does this mean that Capitalism is more moral than Socialism? Hardly. Economic systems are neither moral nor immoral: they are amoral. However, Capitalism–market economy–provides more accountability than does a totalitarian system. That allows for the possibility–but in no way guarantees–a more moral government apparatus.

As for abortion rates in America, Stassen misses an important fact: the largest jump in abortions in America occurred between 1972 and 1980 ( What factor caused such a jump? Roe v. Wade. However, as O’Bannon points out, Stassen signed a 1979 document stating his support for the Roe v. Wade decision.

In light of what he couldn’t have known in 1979, has his opinion changed?
NOTE: The above was my original post. I confess to a misprint: the document Stassen signed–A Call to Concern–was in 1977, not 1979.

Ohio Farmhouse Shootings: Part 1

05/30/2005: Typically, when teenagers go on shooting rampages, the people who knew the shooters look back and say, “Gee…these people really were weird, why didn’t someone do something sooner???” From Paducah to Columbine, the shootings usually make sense in hindsight. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were a dual disaster looking for the opportunity. (They were nihilists who obsessed with death, but few in authority saw this as a warning sign. Go figure!) Michael Carneal–the Paducah shooter–had some serious psychiatric problems.

Perhaps we will learn what got into 18-year-old Scott Moody such that he shot his grandparents, his mother, two friends, and himself to death, and critically wounded his sister, 15-year-old Stacy Moody. Moody was slated to graduate from Riverside High School–near Columbus, Ohio–only hours before his shooting spree.

Right now, we know few details. Bernie Pachmayer–the Superintendent for the school district–doesn’t have any clues. Neither does Michael Henry, the Logan County Sheriff.

The firearm he used–a .22 caliber rifle according to preliminary reports–is a very common low-caliber firearm used by children and recreational shooters (bullseye pistol shooters love the .22, and it is a required caliber for some competitions). While the .22 is not typically associated with violent criminal activity–criminals usually aim for more moderate calibers with more stopping power, such as the 9mm or .40 caliber handguns–it is nonetheless quite lethal at point-blank range, especially to the head. The victims were apparently shot in the head, while the sister–who as of now survived–was shot in the neck.

One thing is certain: these types of shootings usually don’t “just happen” out of the blue. Hopefully, we will find out what was going on between Moody and his family. Was he having girlfriend problems? Did he get along well with his parents? Was he involved in any bizarre activities–nazi groups, nihilist gangs? Was he addicted to drugs? Was he on any psychotropic medications? Was he drunk?

We can expect the usual reactions: gun control advocates will clamor for stricter gun laws. Gun rights groups will scream, “From my cold, dead hands!” Social workers will probably demand more government intervention by funding more case workers. The Religous Right will howl about our culture going to hell in a handbasket. Michael Moore will probably produce Bowling for Riverside, connecting Bush, Cheney and Halliburton to the shootings. Some ultra-dispensationalists will tie this event to the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, and the Trilateral Commission.

I hope those groups (yes…even the gun rights groups, which I support) shut the heck up on this. This is not about gun rights or gun control, nor is this about abortion, condoms, school prayer, or one-world government.

This is about grandparents who were slaughtered by their grandson. This is about a mother killed by her own son. This is about three teens who never made it to age 20. This is about a 15-year-old who (if she survives) will grow up minus her mom and grandparents, her brother leaving her for dead. This is about an 18-year-old who, for reasons we may or may not learn, made a very terminal decision for which there is no going back.

Sadly, there are choices that have an element of finality: it’s not like Moody can come back and repent, or ask forgiveness. With the swiftness of a gunshot, he fast-forwarded his timeclock to zero.

While some–taking a cynical approach–will say, “Good riddance…he saved us the tax dollars”, there is nothing “good” here. Suicide–even when committed by a murderer–is tragic. When one chooses life, there is an opportunity for a measure of grace. There is nothing positive about suicide.

The more I think about it, the more hideous this shooting is…even more so than Columbine. Klebold and Harris targeted their classmates; there was no indication that any of the Columbine victims were close to either shooter.

However, when a child shoots parents and grandparents, friends and siblings, that reflects a catastrophic rebellion that is profoundly troubling.

Shooting 1,000 Yards: My First Match

There are not many opportunities for civilians to do long-distance shooting. For those of us who wish to do it, we have to settle for the couple of tournaments per year, typically held at military bases. One day, at the Shooter’s Supply in Louisville, I overheard Skip Ludwig–a veteran shooter in service rifle and bolt-action rifle competitions who works there–speaking of the 1,000-yard competitions at Fort Knox.

I asked him about how one would get into such long-distance shooting, and he made it sound easy. I didn’t believe him, but I wanted to try shooting that distance at least once in my life. I have a couple friends who are former snipers. They talk about how they used to shoot from 1,000 yards in training. (Although snipers train at 1,000 yards–it is a confidence builder–they rarely shoot that distance in combat.) On May 12, Skip provided a clinic about preparing for the 1,000 yard distance: what kind of rifle to use, what kinds of equipment works best, how to prepare mentally, how to zero your rifle, tips on marksmanship skills.

It was very interesting. He had me hooked and I think he knew it! I immediately signed up for the May 22 match at the Scott Mountain Range at Fort Knox.

Most competitive shooters develop their own custom-rifles for long-distance shooting (or have others build the rifle for them). One of the fun parts of the matches is looking at all the neat customizations the other competitors have brought. Custom barrels. Custom stocks. Most of the rifles were designed specifically for the pursuit of trophies. Most of the shooters had dumped thousands of dollars into their equipment.

How much money you spend depends on your goals. If–like me–you want to shoot for the fun of it and trophies really don’t matter, you don’t need to spend tons of greenbacks. If you want to win tournaments, you just go ahead and start piling on the money.

Given that I don’t have that big a wallet to spend on a customized top-of-the-line rifle, I used an economy package:

*A Savage Model 116, chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum
*A Tasco 10×40-50mm scope
*A Harris bipod
*A Farrell scope base

Total cash outlays: $250.00. (I traded a handgun and $50 for the rifle and scope. The bipod was $100, as was the scope.)

I used JBM Ballistics to determine the MOA (Minute Of Angle) adjustment for my scope. It turned out that those numbers were pretty good: I had very little adjusting during the matches.

At first, the range–the Scott Mountain Range at Fort Knox–looked VERY intimidating. The course distance is over a half-mile. The targets are barely visible. I’m used to shooting at targets inside 200 yards–I frequently shoot at Knob Creek Gun Range. I also shoot at the Franklin County Sportsmen’s Club near my home, and it only has a 100 yard course. Next to those ranges, 1,000 is one heck of a culture shock!

Here is some perspective on the 1,000 yard distance:

(1) In order to hit the X-ring from 1,000 yards, your rifle position has to have the precision within the width of a human hair.

(2) At 1,000 yards, small changes in weather–wind, temperature, humidity–can impact the flight path of the bullet.

(3) At 1,000 yards, even minute variations in the ammunition–bullet weight, powder charge, casing size–can cause an errant shot. (For the match, I used Black Hills ammunition: it is high-precision match-grade ammunition.)

(4) At 1,000 yards, even the rotation of the earth affects the flight path of the bullet. This effect–called the Coriolis effect–can cause an otherwise well-aimed shot to veer away from the X-ring.

(5) Any excessive pressure on the trigger can cause the rifle barrel to move. At 100 yards, this is only a difference between the X-ring and a 7 or 8. At 1,000 yards, this can cause you to completely miss the target!

Over the course of the match–from morning to afternoon–the temperature can vary by up to 30 degrees. That requires attention to scope settings, as a higher temperature results in a flatter flight path for the bullet. Wind can be tough to read. as wind activity may vary (in speed or direction) over the 1,000 yard distance. Having the discipline to hold your fire when the wind picks up is not easy.

All I could think was, “I hope I don’t make a horse’s (petute) out of myself!”

Once the match starts, you have 30 minutes. During this time, you can shoot as many “sighter” shots as you wish to focus your scope, but–at some point within that time–you must tell the scorer when to count them, and then fire 20 shots.

Doing the math, that adds up to a minute and a half per shot. 30 minutes is plenty of time, but you’d better have your scope settings in the ballpark. You do not want to have to fire more than 10 rounds to get your rifle focused.

My first shot was nervous, but to my surprise I was on paper: I hit the 7-ring. My scope was about right. I fired a couple more sighter shots just to make sure I was good to go. At that point, I looked back at the scorer, and said, “Count ’em!”

My first match exceeded my expectations: I shot a 173 out of 200. I never missed a target. I was jacked!

In my second match, I had some trouble, as the heat and wind picked up. But I still shot a 172, with a couple of X-ring shots.

The following are my takeaways from the experience:

(1) I fell in love with my Win Mag. I borrowed a shooting jacket from the match director, and felt quite comfortable shooting my Big Mama Magnum. I had not shot that particular rifle at more than 100 yards before this match, so I was very pleasantly surprised at its performance at 1,000 yards. Not bad for an economy rifle!

(2) I will invest in a shooting jacket. That made the Win Mag experience both pleasant and enjoyable.

(3) I will take my time on my shots next time around. I’ll take some time to read the wind, take some deep breaths, get my body relaxed. I rushed several shots. As a result, I jerked the trigger a couple of times, and those shots landed in the 6-ring instead of the 10-ring.

(4) I will remember to BREATHE!!!!

(5) That Tasco scope performed quite well. I could see the target very well, and had no trouble focusing.

Overall, I was very happy with my scores. That said, I know I can shoot better, even with my economy rifle. I know Skip is probably going to try to sell me a Remington 700–and I must admit they are very tempting. But before I buy one of those, I want to be able to shoot to my full potential with my Win Mag.

I think I am now addicted to distance shooting. I’m looking forward to my next 1,000 yard match: the Kentucky State Championships in July.

Mixing Faith and Politics, Part 2 (Legislating Morality in an Ideological Free Market)

In the battle over Separation of Church and State, both sides have invoked the Founding Fathers–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison–to support their respective positions.

The strict Separationists contend that the Founders were Deists, and did not support the view of the Bible held by the Religious Right of today. (Deists take a “watchmaker” view of God: they believe that God created everything, and then left it up to humanity to manage things. They do not believe that God actively intervenes in history. As a result, they tend to deny any Biblical accounts of supernatural acts.)

The Religious Right contends that the Founders—while hardly card-carrying Fundamentalists—were nominal Christians who understood the necessity of Christian influence in matters of law and public policy.

Both sides have legitimate points: the Founders—Deists that they were—would not pass as theocrats. Pat Robertson would be very disappointed at them, and they at him (as I am at him). At the same time, to call them Separationists would be a major overstretch. They supported the rights of Christians to exercise their faith in the public arena.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was aimed at keeping the government from forming an official State Church. Prohibitions against religious tests were aimed toward the same end. This enabled Christians to play and integral role in forming law and policy, while preventing government from establishing theocracy, from which Vatican-style oppressions may breed.

However, there still remains a legitimate question: to what extent should Christians play a role in the formulation of law and public policy? I would add another question along those lines: at what point does this influence cross the line and become Unconstitutional?

I agree with the Separationists on one point: man-made theocracy is a very bad idea. History has shown that no group of humans—religious or secular—is competent to impose theocracy in any way that is fair or equitable.

However, the Separationists are disingenuous when they claim, “religious conservatives have no right to impose morality on anyone.” Every law is an expression of someone’s morality. Indeed the contention that “religious conservatives have no right to impose morality on anyone” is itself an imposition of morality on religious conservatives.

That being said, what morality should be imposed? What are the criteria by which we decide what morality indeed should be legislated?

To that end, I suggest that morality should be legislated as it undergirds the three unalienable rights of citizens: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (in that order).

That means life comes first. A person’s liberty is second in importance, and can only be superseded by another person’s right to life. Similarly, your right to pursue happiness is fundamental, but another person’s life or liberty precedes it. I would also add one more wrinkle: any imposition of morality that forces the government to exceed its Constitutional limits is also off-limits.

How can this be done? Let’s take a look at some hot-button issues.

Abortion Rights
Technology has shown quite clearly that the child in utero is indeed alive. Anyone who denies that life begins before birth is as out-of-touch as a flat earther. Inside 50 days, brain waves are measurable; at eight weeks, all organ systems are present and functional; the child in utero feels pain, sucks his/her thumb.

It is a legal double-standard when, one one hand, we permit the killing of a child in the womb for the full nine months of pregnancy while–on the other hand–we sentence Scott Peterson to death for the “double murder” of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

Making abortion illegal would require two things: (1) the Supreme Court would have to reverse both the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions—this would return the issue to the states; and (2) the states would have to adopt legislation that would pass muster in the legislative and executive branches of their states. A third possibility exists: upon the reversal of Roe and Doe, the House and Senate pass an abortion ban that the President signs into law.

At that point, an enforcement provision would have to be developed. Passing a law is one thing; enforcing it is another. Abortion rights activists contend that—by making abortion illegal—we will eventually have the FBI investigating every woman who suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth.

While that scenario is possible—it is a logical result of the big government that the Left has promoted for seven decades—it is unlikely. Why? Abortion was illegal for over 150 years in every state of the Union, and the federal government showed no interest in pursuing illegal abortionists. Before Roe, those cases were local matters and would remain so if Roe were reversed today. By leaving abortion to the states, this allows Christians to influence the formulation of laws while keeping federal government from exceeding its Constitutional powers.

Before Lawrence v. Texas, some states had anti-sodomy laws on their books. One such state was Texas. The gay rights groups contend that what consenting adults do among themselves is no concern of the government. Any such government intrusions, they argue, are a violation of the 4th Amendment rights of homosexuals.

In spite of my theological views against homosexuality, I agree with the gay rights lobby on this matter. (They are exercising liberty and pursuit of happiness without infringing on the right to life of others.)

However, gay adoptions are a different matter, as subjecting a child to such dysfunction infringes on the child’s rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness, allowing the institutional denial of a two-parent family (father and mother) to a child when such parents are available.

The issue of “gay marriage” is as volatile as abortion, as it may be the social issue that sunk John Kerry in 2004. Regardless of your opinions in this matter, the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) is bad legislation because it aims to circumvent the Constitution via a federal law. This is dangerous: if we allow this trend, then what good is the Constitution? If we allow federal law to circumvent the Constitution with respect to civil proceedings, is it that much more of a stretch to do away with gun rights in the same manner?

In spite of its flaws, DOMA represents an attempt to keep gays from imposing their morality on Americans. Currently, if a state legalizes gay marriage, then all remaining 49 states must recognize the “marriage” due to Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution (better known as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires states to honor the civil proceedings of other states). In this case, homosexuals would be imposing their morality on all Americans, forcing them to recognize their “relationships” on the same moral plane as heterosexual marriage.

Rather that resort to bad law–which is what DOMA is–a more equitable solution to this would be to get the government out of the marriage licensing business altogether. If two people wish to form a legal entity for the purpose of division or protection of assets, then this can be established through contract law (and it need not be sexual: an 80-year-old disabled man may enter such an arrangement with someone much younger to ensure long term care). In this case, terminating that relationship (divorce) would be more orderly, as termination matters can be stipulated in the contract.

By taking marriage licensing out of the hands of government, we get the best of both worlds. On one hand, a gay couple can get “married” at Metropolitan Community Church. However, First Baptist Church is under no obligation to recognize such “marriages”. Marriage would be returned to religious institutions, which is where it belongs anyhow.

How could we address the issue of pornography? On one hand, adults who use it are exercising their right to pursue happiness; however, exposing children to it represents an infringement on their liberty and pursuit of happiness. (Sexual predators often use pornography to lure children into sexual relationships. This is indeed an infringement on them. Exposing a child to pornography increases the likelihood of the child becoming addicted to pornographic media, which is destructive both personally and financially)

Unfortunately, making mainstream pornography illegal may not be feasible within a Constitutional framework: the law enforcement mechanism would require a government holding the power of a totalitarian regime.

Perhaps a middle ground is possible. It would be fair–and Constitutional–to require pornographic establishments to be restricted to non-residential areas. This would recognize the First Amendment rights of pornographers while respecting the concerns of traditional families.

As for e-porn, that is stickier: there is very little that can be done from a legal standpoint. While the federal government rightfully pursues child pornographers, that task is very difficult. Mainstream e-porn is almost impossible to pursue legally. (How do you enforce an American law against a site that is based in Mongolia?) Concerned parents should take it upon themselves to control what comes into their houses. That is tough, but doable. And it requires no new laws.

In general, the threshold is this: if a law—no matter how well-intentioned—requires the State to exceed its Constitutional authority to enforce it, then it should be scrapped.

I have no sympathy for pornography businesses, but I don’t want the Draconian government that would be required to enforce an anti-porn law with teeth. I’m against homosexuality, but I don’t want my government peeking into everyone’s home to make sure couples are doing it “missionary style” either.

Education (evolution, sex education, ADHD…)
Perhaps the thorniest of issues is education. Within the education system, there are several matters that will get religious conservatives into fistfights with secularists.

Should we permit the teaching of Intelligent Design—a theory promoted by Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe—as a competing theory to evolution? Should we permit public schools to push value-free sex education on teens and pre-teens? Should we permit schools to “diagnose” children with ADHD and force-feed them Ritalin? Should we permit the handing out of condoms to teens and pre-teens? Should school personnel arrange for teens to have birth control services and even abortions, without parental notification?

It is amazing that the Left—which insists, “Thou shalt not legislate thy morality on society!”—is very dogmatic about pushing evolution, value-free sex education, condoms, “All Ritalin All the Time”, and abortion on teens and pre-teens. It’s okay to impose morality as long as it’s their morality.

On the matter of evolution, I have one simple question: why are secularists so afraid of “Intelligent Design”? Behe raises many valid arguments, which he demonstrably articulates from the field of biochemistry. Behe introduces the concept of “irreducible complexity”, which contends that some biological systems are so complex that they could not have evolved. This pokes serious holes into the Darwinian model of natural selection.

Homeostatic controls—a staple of every organism as simple as bacteria or as complex as humans—are evidences of intelligent design, as they represent feedback control systems. Any engineering graduate can attest to the mathematical complexity of analyzing or designing even rudimentary control systems. If mechanical or electrical or aeronautical control systems are products of intelligence, then why not biological control systems?

The human eye has biological systems more complex than the flight controls of an F-22 fighter plane. Why should we just chalk this up to “Natural Selection”, which is the scientific way of saying, “S*** happens”?

Intelligent Design does not violate any scientific principles, nor does it violate the Establishment clause of the Constitution, as it imposes no religion on anyone. That it may call attention to a Higher Power is not a statement of religion, but rather an objective conclusion with respect to observable facts.

Is academia not concerned with free inquiry? Why is such inquiry suppressed vigorously when the subject is evolution? Could it be that the Left has found a faith-based initiative (Darwinism) that they can support?

As for sex education, that is a family responsibility, not a government one. If a parent wants his or her kids to have condoms “just in case”, then they can purchase them at any convenience store. There is no compelling need to waste tax dollars on items that statistics show that teens will rarely use. If parents believe the gay lifestyle to be acceptable, then that is their business. They are as free to teach that to their children as conservative parents are to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong. There is no need to spend federal tax dollars promoting either view.

For schools to undermine parental authority by pushing birth control services—and even abortion—behind parents’ backs is deplorable. Even if you are pro-choice and pro-birth control, such subversion of families is beyond despicable, not to mention Unconstitutional.

As for ADHD, that is a medical matter to be resolved between doctors and families. No school nurse or guidance counselor or teacher has any business undermining parental authority in this area. (School administrators tried putting me on Ritalin. My stepmother refused: she worked with my pediatricians on alternatives. For all my childhood difficulties, I have an engineering degree, near-completion of an MBA, a successful career in information technology, and a clean criminal record. I’d say my stepmother was right: I did fine without Ritalin.)

Gun Rights
The Founders were very clear in their support of an armed populace. Contrary to Leftist viewpoints, the 2nd Amendment is not a provision for sportsmen or recreational target practice or even self-defense. It was intended to provide citizens a means to defend themselves from government tyranny. This is hardly a radical view: even the foremost liberal Constitutional scholar–Laurence Tribe of Harvard–concedes that the 2nd Amendment is an individual–not a collective right–that provides wide latitude for gun ownership among citizens.

On the other hand, it is fair and equitable to ensure that those with a propensity to commit violent crimes have not the means to commit those crimes. Toward that end, I propose the following:

  1. Repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934. It is Unconstitutional.
  2. Repeal the Gun Control Act of 1968. It is also Unconstitutional.
  3. Repeal the Class 3 limitations of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. Those are Unconstitutional.
  4. Repeal the Brady Bill. It is also Unconstitutional.
  5. Repeal ALL laws banning open-carry of firearms. They are Unconstitutional.
  6. Require mandatory life sentences–no parole–for all murders committed with guns.
  7. Require mandatory life sentences for any felon who purchases–or attempts to purchase–a firearm.
  8. Require stiff prison sentences for adults who fail to lock their guns, whose negligence causes the harm or death of a child.

None of these views are extreme: in fact, my views are more respective of Separation of Church and State than those of the Left. By leaving matters of sexual morality to families rather than schools, by allowing students to understand issues with respect to evolution—and make up their own minds—by keeping schools out of the birth control business, we ensure that schools do not impose morality (or amorality) on anyone.

That being said, would any of these frameworks–if implemented–result in America becoming a Christian nation? Not by a long shot.

On the same token, nothing I am proposing would place Americans in any danger of theocracy. In fact, the framework I am presenting is a libertarian ideological free market undergirded with a pragmatic morality that restrains both anarchy and government tyranny.

In fact, under this libertarian, pragmatic framework:

  1. Abortion would remain legal in many states. None of the “blue states” would ban abortion if Roe were overturned, and most states would pass less-than-comprehensive restrictions as compromises among parties). The key difference is that–with the federal government out of the abortion business, the issue would become democratized and people would be able to choose what level of regulation they desire.
  2. Gays would be allowed to live as they choose (they could marry, but religious institutions would be under no obligation to recognize those relationships).
  3. Evolution would still be taught in schools (teachers would also be allowed to teach intelligent design).
  4. birth control would be just as available to teens as today (just with parental consent, as with any other medical services).
  5. Law-abiding citizens would be able to own whatever firearms they pleased, while violent criminals would be prosecuted aggressively for crimes they commit with firearms.

While this would hardly represent a Christian Utopia, it would allow wide latitude for people of faith and non-faith to participate in the ideological free market. Conservative Christians would be able to influence law and policy, while people of other faiths and non-faiths would hardly be in danger of having to bow before the image of Pat Robertson of Jerry Falwell.

Christians have a responsibility to be good citizens, and that includes participating in the public arena. That, however, does not mean that the Church can–or should attempt to–usher in the Kingdom of God through a judge’s bench or ballot box or executive order. Such illusions are delusional.

The Christian has one fundamental loyalty: the Gospel. However, the Christian (Conservative or otherwise) is under no command of God–or obligation of law–to live in a vacuum, completely divorced from matters of public welfare.

Mixing Faith and Politics, Part 1 (Does “Separation of Church and State” push Christians into the Closet?)

05/10/2005: I have a standing offer. I will give a month of my salary to anyone who can find the words “separation of Church and state” in the Constitution. I’ve had that offer standing for over 10 years. Unless we add a Constitutional amendment, I’ll be keeping my money.

Those words ain’t there.

There are, however, legitimate questions regarding the role that faith should play in the formulation of law and government policy. To what extent should faith influence policy? Is there a case for a purely secular government? Is it possible to have a secular government whose policies and laws are shaped by a religious consensus? To what extent should Christians pursue the political arena to achieve a more Christian society?

Before addressing some of these questions, I’ll lay a few cards on the table:

(1) I am a Christian
(2) I am politically active
(3) My politics are generally conservative, with many libertarian leanings.

Many of my secular colleagues would make the case for a purely secular government. Their opinion: matters of faith should have no bearing on public policy. Church and State should be completely separate. We cannot legislate morality. We must be tolerant of all religious and moral (and amoral) views in order to have a truly diverse society. Most of the Separationists would suggest that “people of the cloth have no business getting involved in politics.”

As part of the argument, they would raise examples of governments that were purely religious: the Catholic racket of old, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Mullahcracies (and Wahabbi regimes) in Iran and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Against those backdrops, mixing religion and politics is bad, bad, bad. Topping it all off, they’ll add the ultimate strawman argument: religion is responsible for the vast majority of bloodshed and death. For that reason, we must keep religion out of politics.

Unfortunately, these secular arguments don’t hold much weight. After all, any discussion of mass bloodshed in history must include those inflicted by secular governments: the Soviet Union (13 million), Nazi Germany (6 million Jews, 20 million Russians…), the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia (2 million: 25% of the population). In all, Communism–the most secular governmental system known to humanity–is responsible for at least 130 million deaths in less than 100 years. The Church has its share of blood on her collective hands, but–compared to Communism–well, there is no comparison.

Anyone who trusts a purely secular government to deliver good stewardship of public trust is living a pipe dream. Divorced from religious influence, there is no end to the extent of governmental tyranny. The Soviet Union had pure “Separation of Church and State” for 70 years. They locked people of faith from Party membership–and therefore the public arena. (History has shown that Reagan was right: the USSR was indeed the “Evil Empire”.)

To those who insist that we cannot legislate morality, I would challenge them to name one law on the books that doesn’t represent someone’s morality. Whether you are dealing with laws against reckless driving, or laws against rape, or laws regulating vehicle emissions, the fact remains: every law is an expression of morality.

If you insist that faith must play no role in public policy, are you not asserting a legislation of morality?

However, chiseling away the secular mantra of “separation of Church and State” does not address the issue of how much the Church should be involved in matters of State. Are Christians supposed to pursue theocracy? What about the participation of people of other faiths–Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan–in the political sphere? Is it possible to have a government in which faith influences policy while maintaining an atmosphere of pluralism?

As ridiculous as the secularists are the Pat Robertsons of the world who insist on pushing theocracy. The Israelites of old couldn’t administer God’s Law with any competence. (Last time I checked, Jesus made mincemeat out of those who thought they could administer the Law fairly.) The history of the Church is bloodied with religious “leaders” who attempted to impose Christianity on others by force. Similar attempts at theocracy by those of other faiths have also been bloody and disastrous.

Only God is competent to impose theocracy.

If neither pure secularism nor man-made theocracy will work, then what can work?

To that, I submit that the Constitutional republic envisioned by the likes of Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Madison, Webster, and Henry is the best framework for good government.

Very few of the founding fathers were hard-core Christians. In fact, most were Deists. Jefferson and Madison did not accept Biblical accounts of miracles. They were nominal Christians, much like Lincoln Chafee is a nominal Republican.

However, while the Founders were not fundamentalist barn-burners, neither were they secular Utopianists. In fact, the Founders accepted–encouraged–the participation of Christians in the formulation of public policy. At the same time, they ensured that the Constitution would not allow the government to declare an official state religion. (That was the purpose of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.) Similarly, the Founders specifically prohibited religious tests for positions of government leadership, writing that into the Constitution.

This allowed Christians to have a large say in the making of policy, while maintaining a theocracy-free government.

Unfortunately, activist judges–and secular academics–have bastardized that framework beyond all recognition, as they seek to forbid all people of conservative faith from making law or public policy. They are spitting in the face of Jefferson, Hancock, Madison, Washington, Webster, and Henry.

The issue is not whether we can legislate morality, but rather which morality can be legislated. The issue is not whether people of faith should influence the body politic, but rather to what extent.

That, I will attempt to address next.