drawing from a book about Leviathan

How To “Kill” The IRS

The Internal Revenue Service targeting “patriotic” organizations as well as those focused on smaller government and constitutional constraint is downright tyrannical.  But even if politicians abolish the IRS or radically simplify the tax code, that won’t “fix” the underlying problem.  Will anyone call for the real solution, one that would “kill” the IRS? 

Having been a politician, I know that politicians like to “fix” problems.  I also know that it is easy to fix the symptom rather than address the underlying disease.  For example, the fight over the Internet sales tax legislation is the latest example of political “fixing.”  Civil government has strangled free enterprise through excessive regulation, creating alleged inequities and artificial markets.  However, rather than restore free enterprise to health by reducing regulation, some politicians “fix” things with more regulations.  But I digress.

The problem with the IRS is that it is a result of an idea, an idea that flowered with promise but has now produced its poisonous fruit.  The idea is that of Thomas Hobbes, published in 1651.1 Unless we, as a nation, deal with his idea, future generations will find themselves back where we are today; only the names will have changed.

At the risk of great oversimplification, Hobbes tried to explain where the power of civil government came from such that it could legitimately and authoritatively govern men, and men would obey its edicts.

The supposed “greatnesses” of his idea was that he broke from the past.  Prior to Hobbes, God was viewed as the basis for civil government’s authority even though there were great disputes as to whom that authority had been delegated.

Hobbes, however, grounded his theory on reason divorced from revelation (the Bible).  Specifically, he believed that men, by mutual consent, agreed to come together to create the power of the state.  The concept of the “consent of the governed” comes through to this day.

That does not mean that the “consent of the governed” is evil or bad per se.  It also doesn’t mean that “consent of the governed” is irreconcilable with the principle that the authority of civil government comes from God.  But it does mean the authority God has delegated to us, the “power of the ballot box,” is subject to God.  That means it is subject to His “rules” for justice and righteousness.  It also means God prescribes the extent of civil government’s power, not a majority of men who consent together to do whatever their hearts desire.

While many object to any attempt to inject God into politics, the fact of the matter is civil government, divorced from God, isn’t too pretty, as evidenced by the IRS scandal and Benghazi-gate.  Civil government, untamed by God, becomes god.  Even a god created by man will not be easily tamed by its creators, for it is the nature of every god to rule over others.

Hobbes summed it up pretty well:

“This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god, to which we owe under the immortal God, our peace and defence.” (emphasis in original)

The surest way to solve the problem of big, tyrannical, oppressive government is for all men to humbly submit to the governance of God.  As a nation, we don’t seem willing to do that, but anything less is just fixing the symptom, not the disease.  William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, said it well, “If men will not be governed by God, they will be ruled by tyrants.”

Because we have not been self-governed under God, but have thrown off every natural restraint, we have a bloated civil government with a voracious appetite that only an IRS can fill.

To slay today’s Leviathan, the IRS, that we created, we will need to re-introduce our nation to our forgotten exercise in self-government under God.  It’s the only true remedy for tyranny.

1The book, commonly known simply as Leviathan, is actually entitled, Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil.

Clergy for Justice Tennessee Facebook page and question, Theocracy in Tennessee?

The growing threat of a theocracy in Tennessee makes me want to “gag”

Liberals decry the “religious right.”  Many believe that if Americans don’t “gag” them and keep them out of politics we are going to be living in a theocratic state like in the days of Moses in ancient Israel or in modern-day Iran.  If you don’t know what a theocracy is, then you better learn, because it seems to be coming to Tennessee.  And, yes, there’s something about it that makes even me want to gag.  Read more. . . . 

According to liberals, a theocracy is a religiously controlled state.  It is a return to the days of the state-supported institutional church.  It is a return to the days when the Pope controlled the kings.  Liberals are right to be concerned about a return to those days.

So what would liberals have us look for as evidence of a burgeoning theocratic state in Tennessee?  It is people citing Bible verses to politicians as a reason for why they should vote a certain way.  And when it’s preachers doing it, then things are really getting out of hand.  Call the IRS.

If that troubles you, then start worrying.  Last week, “over 300 ministers and people of faith,” members of a group called Clergy for Justice Tennessee, signed a letter to Governor Haslam that cited Biblical concepts as a reason for vetoing the so-called “ag gag” bill.  The bill requires anyone who has a photo or video that may evidence abuse of livestock to turn it in to authorities within a very short period of time.

Why the major newspapers, some of which reported on this letter, and their editorial boards did not excoriate these ministers and Clergy for Justice for using the Bible to prop up their public policy position, I’ll never know.  After all, I don’t even have to cite a Bible verse in reference to legislation to raise an outcry by the same media outlets.

To make matters worse, less than 30 days ago 100 ministers from Clergy for Justice lobbied the Governor to do the “moral and faithful thing” by expanding Medicaid.

Come on, mainstream media.  Twice in 30 days?  And no response?

Of course, I know why Clergy for Justice gets a pass from the media.  It’s the same reason the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation didn’t make a peep about “separation of church and state” over Clergy for Justice’s recent efforts.  The theology of Clergy for Justice, founded earlier this year, fits the liberal agenda.

By that I am not saying that only a liberal or a liberal theologian would agree with the assertion by Clergy for Justice that Man:

  • was intended by God to be a “caretaker of the earth and all its inhabitants,” and
  • should “show compassion to all God’s creatures.”

As a member of the religious right in “good” standing with the media, the ACLU, and others, I don’t disagree with those statements.

And I am not saying that only a liberal or theologically liberal person could oppose the “ag gag” bill.  I’ve heard good arguments both for and against the bill.  And some legislators known by liberals to be in the clutches of the “religious right” voted against the bill.  And just yesterday the state’s Attorney General opined that the bill might be “constitutionally suspect.”

But I am saying that generally speaking, Clergy for Justice’s theology fits the liberal agenda espoused by the mainstream media, ACLU, Freedom from Religion, and others like them.

It fits because Clergy for Justice did not:

  • speak out against Vanderbilt University when the issue was raised this year regarding its ongoing intolerance toward groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) because those groups require their student officers to believe the Biblical mandate that sexual intimacy be confined to marriage between a man and woman,
  • say a word in support of the legislature’s effort to protect those groups even on the campuses of our public colleges, or
  • speak up in defense of the religious liberties of students on our public college campuses who are studying social work, counseling, or psychology.

So these ministers and people of faith get a pass.  I guess mainstream media and those who agree with them don’t mind a theocracy if it fits their agenda on major issues like these.

Their hypocrisy is almost palpable.  It’s enough to make me want to gag.

Army chaplain with soldiers praying

Please Court-martial the Christian Soldiers

When I was a kid growing up in the church, we used to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  And Christian soldiers were in the news this week with stories about whether the military would court-martial them if they share their faith.  For reasons I’ll explain, as a Christian, I hope the military does.

When the stories about possible court-martials came out, at first I thought the policy was absurd.  Surely the military brass had lost its collective mind.  I mean, just look at our military’s history.  The military general to whom we owe our liberation from England, George Washington, penned the following directive to all military personnel:

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.  To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”1

However perhaps the policy wasn’t absurd but was a brilliant maneuver, brilliant because it was never intended to be used to actually court-martial someone.

Think about it.  This policy was not enacted or announced with a recitation of problems arising from an alarming increase in Christian military personnel zealously pursuing the conversion of their colleagues.  For goodness’ sake, there isn’t much “zealous” evangelizing taking place in the Christian community in general.  I doubt the military has become a hotbed for barrack and mess hall preachers.

Then when the stories about the policy finally got some traction, the military quickly backtracked a bit.  The Pentagon released the following statement: “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization),”

I draw from the quick release of the statement that the neither the military brass nor our President, as “Supreme Commander,” want to face the political backlash that would come from actually court-martialing someone who benignly or innocently shares their faith.

I think what the military is doing is nothing less than what its counterparts in the IRS found successful.  The IRS uses the Internal Revenue Code and its labyrinth of regulations to intimidate churches into silence about political and governmental issues by threatening to revoke their coveted tax-exempt status.  But who have they actually come after?

Since 2008, Alliance Defending Freedom has designated a Sunday on which ministers are encouraged to preach a sermon that violates the IRS’s rules.  Last October, over 1,600 pastors did so, and the IRS was so informed.  No action has ever been taken.  In fact, the IRS’s silence during this five-year period has been so infuriating that last November the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the IRS for not enforcing its rules!

The IRS knows that the government cannot infringe on the free exercise of religion.  It is not interested in having a court determine the constitutionality of its rule because the mere existence of the rule provides the threat needed to silence churches.  So long as the number of churches scared into silence exceeds the number willing to risk revocation of their tax-exempt status, the rule serves its purpose.

And I think the same is true of the military.  Godless military leaders think that Christian soldiers are no different than the majority of those who lead our churches, and the threat of being court-martialed is plenty sufficient to make sure Christians don’t join the military in the first place or, if they do, they don’t ever get too “Christian-y.”

So I say that now is the time for every “Christian soldier” in the military to “march onward” and lead into battle.  Challenge the policy; share your faith every chance you get; and make the military court-martial all of you.  

If Christians in the military are court-martialed, it just may fire up enough Christians that we all finally stand up to the politicians and military personnel who would silence us. And if none of them are court-martialed, then the policy will become a meaningless joke.

If the church at large will not lead into battle for the truth of the gospel, then maybe the church in the military will.

1 An excerpt from the General Orders issued by George Washington on the 2nd of May 1778, after his Continental Army barely survived the brutal winter at Valley Forge.

photo from TV show Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best

Father’s Day is this Sunday.  I am blessed to be a father.  As I thought about the day, having had a great father myself, I couldn’t help but think of the old television show, “Father Knows Best,” and a bit a news that came out this week.

The show, which I really am not old enough to remember, would today be deemed corny, out of touch, unrealistic, and old-fashioned.  It is clearly from a bygone era and, even during its time, didn’t reflect everyone’s home life as it then existed.  But what it did portray was what was considered to be an ideal family, at least at that time, where mom and dad loved each other, dad was not a goofball, God played a part of their family life, and the kids were respectful of their parents and weren’t the “brains of the family.”

But today we want “authenticity” in our programming.  We want to see things “as they are.”  We want to “be real.”  We don’t seem too interested in projection of some kind of ideal.  And perhaps it’s because we don’t know any more what we consider to be “the ideal” for much of anything, even for a family.  Ideals, by definition, require an objective standard on which we agree.

This thought, however, about ideals and reality ties into a new study released this week comparing the well-being of children raised by heterosexual parents versus those raised by homosexual parents.  It was authored by Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  The study will be published in the July 2012 issue of Social Science Research, and is currently available online.

Reaction was sure and swift, challenging the credibility of the study (and some good points were indeed raised as to methodology and what the report actually did and didn’t “prove”).  But the study is reflective of what is going on among social scientists, trying to determine the well-being of children raised by an intact biological mom and dad vis-a-vis a couple who engage in homosexual sex.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how important those studies are or will be because whoever doesn’t like a study will always find reasons to discredit it and, even if the results are not seriously subject to debate, will it really change what we do as a matter of public policy?

After all, on the heterosexual front, we’ve known for a long time that, statistically speaking, children raised by an intact, biological mom and dad will do much better and have fewer problems with drugs, crime, education, etc., than those who come from single parent families affected by out-of-wedlock childbearing and divorce.  But, still, we’ve not shed the policies of our failed experiment with no fault divorce.  We have not gone hard after the policies and promoters of promiscuity that foster lifestyles that tend to lead to out-of-wedlock birth. (Though in Tennessee FACT just helped change our sex education laws – Senate Bill 3310 – and the howls of protest from the left were histrionic)

Of course, these statistical studies do not mean that no single parent and no homosexual couple will never raise or never has raised up a child to become a responsible young person who contributes in wonderful ways to our culture and society. And these studies do not mean that every child raised by an intact, biological mom and dad turns out better than those raised in different environments, or that every one of those children becomes a responsible, contributing member of society.

But the question I have to ask myself, beyond the dueling statistical studies, is whether, as a professing Christian, I think the design for the family laid out in Scripture is God’s intention, His suggestion, or merely one good idea among many different good ideas?  If God, in the beginning, laid out that children would come into being through a mom and a dad who were intended to cleave to one another for life, am I wiser than He to think other arrangements, on the whole and for the long term, are just as good?

I’ve come to see that thinking I am, or can even become, as wise as my Heavenly Father has been the root of the problems I’ve brought on myself over the years, and it’s really the root of the problems all of us have brought on ourselves ever since the beginning when Eve, looking at the forbidden fruit, applied her own logic and reasoning to what she saw, and decided to eat what God had forbidden.

You might say that Eve forgot that “Father knows best.”  And from a look at our culture and the wrecked lives left in the wake of Eve’s actions, I think it’s something a lot of us have forgotten.

This Father’s Day, let’s give thanks for the biological fathers we have. And let us also give thanks for the Heavenly Father who cared enough about our well-being to show us the way we should go.

How to Destroy America

America’s greatest threat might not be from outside, but from within.

As we consider our nation’s future and the threats to our nation, we may not realize that the greatest threat is not war with foreign nations or being overwhelmed with illegal immigrants. If we think about what America really is, then our greatest threat might not be from outside, but from within.

The issue really turns on how you see America. Is America simply a plot of land over which nations might fight? Or is America an idea, one that can be killed by destroying or changing what it means to be American?