Political Manifesto for the 21st Century

January 7, 2010 by

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

We affirm these self-evident truths, and declare that it is time to abolish our form of government, not by armed revolution, but by the election of representatives who will change it.

The Constitution of the United States allows for the people to elect their representatives every two years, and to elect every senator every six, and to elect the president every four. Each state constitution allows the citizens of that state a similar power to choose their government. Through electing representatives that represent our desire to preserve our government solely to protect the individual rights of everyone, we propose the following changes be made.

  1. Limited government. Our governments are limited by the constitutions that form them. We need to enact a common understanding among the people of what those limits are and impose them on our governments. We need also to strengthen the already existing limits, overturning bad interpretations by our courts, legislators, and executives, and impose new and stronger limits on our governments which will forever ensure our individual liberty.
  2. Dramatic cuts to spending. Our governments should spend our money procuring only those goods and services that will protect our rights.
  3. An end to government charity. It is the role of our churches and the individual to supply charity to the poor, not the state. If the individual and churches cannot supply the charity, government could only do worse. Having government provide charity absolved the conscience and duty of the people from their proper role to love their neighbor.
  4. An end to unfunded legislation. Any program that congress enacts must be completely and fully funded at the time of its creation. We will not enslave future generations to programs that we create but do not fully fund. Existing programs that are unfunded should be canceled or modified until they can be funded.
  5. Dramatic cuts to taxation. Our governments should collect far less taxes than the people can bear. The people should be free to pursue whatever economic matter they wish without burden or undue influence due to taxes. Taxes should not be used to punish the rich or to mold society’s behavior. They should only be used to raise the necessary money to meet the spending requirements of a government that protects the rights of the individual. Any surpluses should be immediately refunded to the people in proportion to taxes paid, or used to pay off debts. Taxes should never be raised to meet spending; rather, spending should be cut to meet tax revenue.
  6. An end to government debt. Our people have become more prosperous than any other people in the world. We do not need to borrow money anymore to provide for the needs of government. Paying interest on our government debts is slavery, not freedom. We are not free until we have paid off all of our debts. Any debt that we must incur should be paid off within a very short time frame, so that our debts are not repaid by our children.
  7. An end to bureaucratic regulation. Any kind of regulation must be debated and passed by the legislatures of our governments, and no other way. No public official should be allowed to set policy that governs the life of anyone but their own employees. No court should dictate legislation. No executive should issue orders except to his troops and employees. Anyone exceeding these limits should immediately be removed from office by impeachment because they are a threat to our liberty.
  8. An end to over-litigation. The laws of our country are unjust, in that they are used to punish those who have done no wrong with tort laws and allow the criminal to go free. Let our laws be simple and just so that we no longer have need of lawyers. Do not allow our constitution to be interpreted as giving shelter to the guilty or limiting the freedoms of the individual.

We boldly declare that freedom and liberty are dramatically different than tyranny and slavery. In a free society, government works differently than in an enslaved society. Our governments should be eternally fearful of the will of the people, forever locked in by the limits of the constitution which creates them, and ever subservient to the people, both the individual and as a whole.

We emphatically reject the tenets of communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, colonialism, and every other form of government or political idea that sets one person above another, that limits the freedom of the individual for the “greater good”, or attempts to convince any individual that they have no rights or fewer rights than the rights man is endowed with by their Creator.

We boldly declare that in our society, the checks and balances in our government includes the individual, private organizations such as businesses or churches or political groups, and federated governments such as the local, state, and federal governments. By distributing the power to govern among these people, organizations, and governments, no one person or group of people is able to obtain much power over the rest.

We also declare that there is enough in this world, and to spare, if the individual is freed from the constraints of government to seek his own fortune in life. We also declare that the man who has obtained wealth is capable of providing charity to the poor, jobs to those who want them, and also to pursue the critical role of participating in politics to keep government constrained. We encourage all men, everywhere, to embrace their freedom, seek their own fortunes, and once having obtained it, spend their time and resources as they see fit in service to their fellowman, without the entanglement of government.

A thoughtful response requires a thoughtful response

May 1, 2015 by

I’ll try to limit the arguments to their core. If I leave something out that was important, I beg you’ll explain why leaving it out was wrong.

Your position is, unfortunately, a considerable straw man of libertarianism as a general concept – both classically and in its modern incarnation. But, to be fair, I do not speak for all libertarians nor do I hold a monopoly on the idea itself (just as I do not speak for all Christians/Christianity), so I can only address what I think and support. But I will try to concisely address some of your criticisms.

I will show you why reducing libertarianism to “Live and let live” is not a strawman. It is, in fact, the core morality of libertarianism, and in order to believe in it, you must adhere to it.

What awoke me to this fact was the contradiction between what libertarianism encouraged me to do and what Christianity encouraged me to do, both within and without government.

1. “[Libertarianism] holds one thing as morally superior to all other things, that the only good is non-interference. That is, ‘Live and let live.'”

It is not true that this philosophy holds only one thing as “good,” nor does the it prescribe any such broadly rigid rules of logic at all.

Every philosophy which speaks about morality must have a central moral tenet. In Christianity, it is that God is good. If libertarianism has none, then libertarianism cannot speak about good or evil at all, but simply facts of nature.

There is nothing about libertarianism that denies the goodness of helping others, or prohibits people from doing so.

I agree.

This statement is only (kind of) true when considered in the context of the state/government’s behavior, which is necessarily based on violence, and is only partially true to the extent that the government wields violence on behalf of one person/group in ways that do not directly protect individuals’ rights.

Here is the crux where Christians and libertarians diverge. Christian morality dictates that government *should* be of one form or another. In times past, they argued that there should be kings ordained by the pope. Today, they argue that the government should be structured on Christian morality.

Libertarians, as you are stating here, have as their guiding principle on what government should do as “protecting individuals rights”. All uses of violence outside of this is, apparently, abhorrent to you.

Never do libertarians list the rights that humans have! Nor do they have a resource that people should consult to discern what is a right and what is not. Isn’t that curious?

A common straw man asserts that because libertarians do not support violent government infringements of individuals’ rights that they must therefore endorse those rights too. This is simply untrue; I disagree with drug use, for example, but do not support the criminalization of it because it is victimless beyond the individual (who has an inherent right to self-destruct if they wish) and causes far more problems socially, economically, and with respect to freedom than these policies actually solve. This is where libertarians think government should and must give way to other, non-violent coercive institutions and developments (i.e., churches, communities, social mores, etc.).

And here we are! Is drug use a right? Would the Founding Fathers have said, “People have the right to destroy their brain with harmful drugs?” Of course not. Because they would never consider suicide a right, just like you don’t have a right to pluck out your eye or cut off your arm. See, rights, to a Christian, are those things God tells us to do. And part of that is to treat our body as a temple used to house the spirit of God. We don’t have time as Christians to desensitize our minds and alter them in psychadelic experience, what between our preaching of the gospel and baptizing of the nations.

Drug use can only be considered a “right” (keep in mind that the word “right” has moral connotations) if your morality is based on “let people do what they want (within these bounds we set for ourselves.)” I can’t imagine any other framework where the idea that someone can and *should* self-harm themselves to be a moral good. Only the Libertarian can claim moral victory by watching people kill themselves!

I am a Christian and a libertarian (which is just to say, I do not support Big Government, Big Parties, and the never-ending and inevitable cycle of transgressions they perpetuate). In fact, it is largely because I am a Christian that I am a libertarian. God did not grant me, or the state, or agents of the state, the right or authority to judge or punish others for their sins (that is solely His job, as I recall).

I beg to differ. Read the Old Testament. When God had his chance to establish his government the way he wanted to, he set up all sorts of laws about who we have to punish when they commit certain sins. In fact, after Noah, God put all of mankind under covenant not to murder, and to kill those who do murder. In other words, the Christian God does compel men to execute his justice in certain instances. To deny this is to ignore the Bible.

Also note that the church that Jesus established did inflict punishment on people who violated the rules of that church. There’s a reason why Christian nations have strict laws and there’s a reason why they enforce those laws. We do not leave it all to God and I have a hard time finding that passage in the Bible that says so. Some sins, yes, other sins, absolutely not.

Under the New Covenant through Jesus, God Himself avoids violently imposing His own will on us as He once did, choosing instead to peacefully allow us to follow or reject His way at our own discretion and risk.

That is, until he decides it is time to wipe away all the wicked from the earth.

You seem to subscribe to the lovey-dovey God who is all mercy and no justice. What happened to the Jesus who used a whip to drive out the moneychangers from the temple? What happened to the God who promised eternal damnation to those who did not believe in him?

The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. Jesus did not change the law, he fulfilled it. We confuse ourselves if we think the game is any different now than it was 5,000 years ago. God doesn’t change. Our understanding of him changes, but God is still the same and demands the same thing today he demanded back then.

He certainly did not grant me or anyone else the authority to use violent proxies (the state in this case) to impose my will on others (and you point out that this is not effective at any rate).

Let me clarify: You cannot use the force of government to force someone to believe something. You cannot use the force of government to do certain other things as well. But you can use it to, say, keep thieves out of your cities and keep child molesters from patrolling your neighborhoods. You can also use it to defend your borders and regulate markets. You can use it to rally troops for war or build religious sites.

While it is true that Jesus implored us to follow the Law of Moses, a key difference between the Old and New Covenants is that we are no longer instructed or empowered to violently enforce that Law. We effectively traded old sacrifices for Jesus’ final sacrifice. Where we used to demand an “eye for an eye,” we now are expected to forgive, as we ask for forgiveness from God. Galatians makes it fairly clear that Christ removed the curse of the Old Law from us through His sacrifice, and to adhere to those old ways gives great offense to God.

We’re free to disagree about our interpretation, but from what I see, he did no such thing. Yes, we are supposed to forgive, and agree with our enemies quickly, etc… but at the same time, the law is still in force. I don’t know exactly which passage you are referring to in Galatians, but I do know that Romans 6:15 says that just because we are forgiven for our disobedience it does not excuse us from obedience. How then can adhering to God’s law cause offense to God? It is what he commanded us to do, it is the law Jesus kept, it is the law that we are to keep when we are forgiven by grace.

But to try and not digress too awful far from the specific point, again libertarianism does not condemn helping others. However, one cannot violently rob Person A and give to needy Person B and still be doing the work of God or Jesus, even when Person B legitimately needs help. Indeed, taking from one and “giving” to another does not meet the spirit or intent Jesus’ teachings that urge sacrificial, selfless aiding of others. Just as Jesus could not fulfill God’s will through a proxy sacrificing their life on Christ’s behalf, neither can we truly meet the spirit of sacrifice in helping others if we use proxies to do so. Matthew 22:15-22 is often misconstrued to mean Jesus supported taxation; I posit that the real intent of this exchange was simply to demonstrate to the faithful that earthly quarrels of state and politics mean nothing when considered against the Kingdom of Heaven (similarly to how Jesus dismissed the importance of earthly Judaic royalty in His exchange with Pilate).

So in the last breath, you argued that we are not supposed to keep the law, and now you are arguing that we are? Charity has been clearly delineated in the Old Testament. The method whereby the rich are to help the poor and the poor to petition the rich are laid out in crystal clarity. I disagree with the methods liberals espouse because it is non-Biblical and a violation of the most basic commandments. You disagree because why? Because it conflicts with the central morality of Libertarianism: Don’t interfere.

2. “Thus, when we wrote, as a country, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’, we weren’t allowing any debate.”

In quoting the Declaration, which is (as you allude to) part of the Organic Law of this nation, you approached what libertarianism means to me: “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” This passage defines why the United States, as a national entity, were founded in the first place. And as you say, this is non-disputable. This is the essence of libertarianism. I do not know any libertarians who are demanding we “take God out of the equation of our history” or “take him out of the foundation that is the cornerstone of our country.”

You don’t know any atheist libertarians then? Because it’s all I hear from libertarians who are atheist. They want to get rid of that pesky religion that keeps interfering with their plans to make minimal government.

Note that a plain reading of the Declaration says it is God who tells men to make governments to secure the rights that God gave them.

Again, for me, it is precisely because I believe God gifted me with self-reason, individual rights, and equality under Him that I do not subscribe to a human institution that seeks to function outside of this paradigm. Libertarianism is, in my opinion, a basic rejection of supplanting God for the State, a rejection of turning to other fallible humans to overreach their basic rights and privileges under God to violently punish and/or control their fellow man in lieu of an individual, willing subjugation to Him through Christ.

Do you admit that Christ set those bounds for government, or do you think human reason sets those bounds? This is a very important question and shows whether you are a Christian first or something else first.

And honestly, I am not even aware of what “the atheistic libertarian argument” actually is. A beauty of libertarianism, unlike most other philosophies, is that it is so limited in scope (i.e., a rejection of unlimited, unchecked Big Government) that it is attractive to people of all walks of life. I believe it is the most inherently inclusive political philosophy that is in no way incompatible with spirituality in general, or Christianity in particular. One of the chief reasons that it is not more widespread is precisely because it is straw manned so much with disinformation, but the diversity of the movement’s makeup is undeniable relative to other, more common modern philosophies.

It is inclusive, until the pesky morality starts peeking its head in and saying, “Wait a minute. This law would maximize the freedom of the people to do certain things, but are those the *right* things that government should allow people to do?” Minimum government is not the goal of the conservative. It is an effect, true, but not the goal. Small government is better than what we have today, but government can be too small as well.

3. “Show me, praytell, where libertarianism has been implemented?”

This is an overly simplistic rhetorical and partial combination of logical fallacies known as begging the question, the naturalistic fallacy, and the nirvana fallacy. Because it is fallacy, it fails to properly address the substantive merits of the position, and instead asserts (but does not prove) a conclusion within the question itself. We are told to strive to be like Christ. Would it not be equally easy to say “show me, praytell, where anyone has actually been like Christ.” When this challenge fails, as it surely will since no one is truly Christ-like, does that invalidate the propriety of trying to be like Him? Just because something presents an extremely difficult pursuit does not mean that the pursuit itself is unworthy. Indeed, I have long held that that right thing and the easy thing are most often not the same things. What matters is the substance of the message – is Christ’s message worthy of emulation? – not whether it is practically achievable. I will never be like Christ; but I believe I will be the best person I can be by trying to be like Him within my limitations. This is also why I exercise despite knowing I will never be at the level of a professional athlete. Besides, the Constitution can be accurately described as a mostly libertarian framework, original de facto endorsements of slavery notwithstanding.

So you admit my argument is moot because… no one has tried libertarianism? That was my point.

Regarding whether any Christians have tried government by Christian law: Yes, yes they have, and you don’t have to look very hard on the European continent to see it. Which Christian has ever claimed to be like Christ? That is not the point of Christianity. Christianity admits that we are all flawed. We owe Western Civilization to all of the people who tried to rule as a Christian should rule, whether that was Charlemagne, the later emperors of Rome, the various Popes, or the kings and governors of the nations of Europe. I accept their flaws and their victories as contributing factors to my current status. As a people, we were pretty screwed up, but so was everyone else, and in balance, we turned out OK.

So have we tried rule by Christianity? Yes, and it worked exceptionally well. We beat the Middle East, the Far East, and all the islands everywhere else. No culture can compare to ours, and now our culture is infiltrating every corner of the globe.

4. “What inevitably happens when a ‘free’ people, or rather, a people with no government, exist, is evil people with evil intentions take over.”

This is a true statement; it is also a common straw man levied against libertarians. Again, I speak not on a monopoly basis, but neither I, nor any other libertarian I know or exchange ideas with, believe this. There is a marked difference between anarchy and minarchy. Libertarianism, as I embrace it, is recognition of the need for government but for it to do one thing only (as laid down in the Declaration): protect individual rights from those evil people you noted. That is a minarchy. This purpose behind the institution does not include the vast majority of functions that modern American government embraces, including (but not limited to) social engineering, regulating victimless behavior, violently imposing moralistic standards on others that infringe individual rights, etc.

So, Libertarian says, “Government is good, except ours.” With that argument, no one can ever implement Libertarianism. It seems also there is a fatal flaw in Libertarianism. There is the paradox that if you accept all freedoms, then you accept the freedom to limit freedom. Obviously, that leads to contradictions, which is my point. The ultimate end goal of minimum interference or securing rights for right’s sake is that exact contradiction. Who gets to define which rights are worth defending and which are not?

5. “This is the crux of my argument: Freedom does not work. Liberty is not an end unto itself. The result of unlimited freedom is captivity. Liberty does not beget liberty. It begets tyranny and slavery.”

Part of this statement is simply untrue, at least when considered in the context of codified law establishing American government (i.e., Organic Law). Liberty is the end unto itself for the institution of the United States as a nation. That end is, as demonstrated, explicitly written and codified via democratic treaty and cannot be legally ignored. The rest of the statement is philosophy that is not proven fact, and cannot be proven. It is what you believe, but I hold to a different belief. Liberty does not beget tyranny and slavery; tyranny in the guise of liberty surely does this I will acknowledge, but liberty does not. I wish to be free from my fellow man, not from God. Libertarianism does not present a conflict with God but with other men who, under God, are equal to me and therefore present no legitimacy in regulating my life beyond protecting their own divine rights. I wish to be free, and I recognize that in order for me to be free I must be willing to allow others the same consideration.

This is where you are wrong: “Liberty is the end unto itself for the institution of the United States as a nation.”

Liberty was not the intended consequence of the American government. It is a means to the end, but it is not the end. Read the preamble. It never says that the point of government is to secure liberty, it says that the point is to secure the *blessings* of liberty. We were not formed as a nation to protect liberty alone, but to ensure that we would be able to enjoy the fruits that liberty brings. Also, note that it is listed as the last of many ends of the formation of the government.

Did our Founding Fathers form the United States because they wanted to make sure people had access to harmful drugs, to prostitution, to homosexual marriages, and to all manner of perversions and filthy behavior? NO! To them, these things were not indications of freedom, but indications of subjection, namely, being subject to the powers of darkness, namely sin. There are no blessings you get from prostitution and other moral vices. They wanted no part in that, and they didn’t want to secure that for their children.

There are blessings in the freedom that comes from Christian salvation, the freedom from sin and the freedom promised by Christ to those who embrace the truth of his mission to save this world.

To this point, libertarianism is not incompatible with people governing themselves, as you mentioned in the subsequent paragraph. Indeed, libertarianism expects people to behave themselves within the constraints of their just rights (i.e., not infringing on others’ rights, person, property, etc.) and expects people to be held responsible for their behaviors when they fail to do so. Freedom is not the same as lack of accountability; freedom and personal responsibility are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Again, I think a large part of this disconnect is the belief that libertarianism equates to anarchy, when in fact it espouses minarchy (i.e., stern limits on the government, which has no inherent right to exist vice stern limits on individuals who do).

Again, who defines the rights people are entitled to and government must protect? What should be the punishment for people who abuse their freedom, when it doesn’t directly infringe on someone else’s? The Bible dictates death to the adulterer, for instance. Why would the Bible say that? Do you trust the Bible’s morality or do you trust the libertarian morality, where sexual relationships outside of marriage are no evil because there is no harm and we should just ignore it if we have a religious objection to it?

6. “Our constitution does not enshrine every liberty.”

It is true our Constitution does not enumerate every liberty. However, the Tenth Amendment fairly clearly points out that it did not set out to, and that an absence of such a list does not preclude unmentioned individual liberties. Indeed, a libertarian argument would be that the federal government was never meant to provide any police authority whatever, let alone to those behaviors you have listed here as ones you disagree with. The Constitution is very clear – however it may be abused, misused, and/or ignored today – that no such power delegated (the use of that specific word is very important after all) to the federal government is not rightfully the federal government’s to assume. Those non-enumerated powers, including law enforcement, belong to the States and the people. It is true that regardless of this point, libertarians endorse decriminalization of behaviors that are arguably victimless as in your example, but this hardly equates to Godlessness or anarchy as is implied. To gay people having consensual sex, while sinful, does not violate anyone’s individual rights and is thusly outside the scope of federal government propriety (the federal republican aspect of this is a slightly different discussion with different implications, though it is fair to say that a libertarian views marriage/consensual sex as being outside the realm of legitimate regulation for state government as well).

I don’t need to remind you that I trust the constitution over our current government, which has perverted the constitution in every way I can imagine and then some.

There is a reason why the constitution doesn’t list every right. The federal government was not the place to protect those particular rights that weren’t listed. Note that the 10th amendment does not leave everything else to the people. It leaves it to the states or the people. Meaning, there are some things the states could do to limit the behavior of the people, and that the constitution is counting on them to do.

I see you are being more explicit and brave now, putting God’s laws and morality below the libertarian. See, to God, marriage and sexual relationships were something extraordinarily important. Violating his laws in these matters was a capital offense. The reason why government is involved in these matters is because our government is a Christian one, based on the Bible. And the Bible says that these things should be laws. The reason why we are having a debate today is because there are a lot of people who don’t believe that we should be a Christian nation anymore, yourself included. You have decided to substitute God’s morality with your own, or somebody else’s.

I can argue that homosexual acts *do* infringe upon my individual liberties, but that’s not the point of this. I’m not trying to justify God’s morality, I am merely saying that his morality is mine, and so I believe that should be the guiding star in moral discussions.

7. “None of our ancestors believed we had right to commit suicide or to commit adultery or homosexual acts.”

As you pointed out previously, our rights are derived from God, not from our ancestors, so in truth what they believed is irrelevant in this sense. If God granted us free will to stray from His path, as He surely did even if this is wrong, then God granted us the right to behave in sinful ways, including those you mentioned. The only libertarian question here is one regarding the state’s behavior: does the state have the right to violently regulate victimless behavior? I believe philosophically, and the Constitution supports this at least at the federal level, that the answer is “no.” Tying this back to the Christian message: God did not grant us divine authority to violently regulate other people’s sinful behavior under the New Covenant. Repercussions for sin are His and His alone to dole out.

“What they believed is irrelevant.” All of the work and thought they put into trying to form a nation that would have freedom and maintain it through the ages is being thrown away here. Here you stand, acting as if you know more than they knew, or they were somehow beneath you. What gives you the perspective they didn’t have? What makes you a superior theologian or philosopher?

God did grant us the ability to break his laws, true, and he also gave us a commandment to punish certain violations of those laws. Never did he excuse even the smallest violation of the law. All sins will be accounted for. If we do not embrace Christ, then we will be damned by our own sins.

To suppose that you somehow understand the Bible better than your ancestors… that is true pride and audacity. “Pride cometh before the fall.” What an apt description for our generation!

8. “You will let your neighbor’s house burn down. I will put it out.”

This is a purely absurd assertion that bears no reasonable similarity to reality.

It bears everything with reality. As the world reels in sin and error, I am not going to stand idly by and say government should not do things government should do, or government should do things it should not. I am going to use God’s morality as my own. I am going to spend the time and effort it takes to appreciate our ancestors rather than suppose that because I was born in a later century than them I know better.

I am going to forego addressing the multiple ad hominems listed in this post in the interest of limiting this to a civil discourse an intellectual exchange, but needless to say those fallacies do nothing to substantively further one’s position logically.

As we all know, everyone is certainly entitled to their perspectives, interpretations, opinions, and beliefs. I just feel that libertarianism has been inaccurately characterized in your post according to what you think, or maybe wish, it means rather than what it actually means – at least to me. This is not so much meant to “convert” you to my way of thinking, as you have made clear that this cannot be done and I can understand that. This reply is really meant to give the third party viewer a different, and more accurate as it relates to me at least, characterization of libertarianism for them to consider.

I haven’t seen any place where you’ve disagreed with my assertion of the central morality of Libertarianism: Let people do what they want. As long as it doesn’t directly affect me, it’s none of my business. “Live and let live” as they say. You’ve tried to contort Christianity to conform with Libertarianism, I am sure, but you have not rejected the definition I gave of it.

Why I am Not a Libertarian

May 1, 2015 by

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that has been with us for a while. It is deceptively similar to conservatism, or even liberalism.

My understanding is that it holds one thing as morally superior to all other things, that the only good is non-interference. That is, “Live and let live.” In other words, the principle of non-interference.

This is a philosophy that is foreign to Christians. Jesus taught us to help those who don’t deserve help. The Good Samaritan is an allegory where we are taught by the Master to show love and take on the responsibility of care of other for ourselves.

Jesus also spent his time warning everyone of the error of their ways. He didn’t hold back his warning from the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Romans, the Jews, or Gentiles. All of them he encourage to receive himself a the Savior of the World, and to trust in him. He encouraged all of them to keep the Law of Moses, but to keep it in your heart as well as in deed. The two great commandments he summarized as loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Well, I love myself. I feed myself, I shelter myself, I clothe myself. And so as  a Christian, I believe the Law of God says I should love others, feed others, clothe and shelter them. “Live and let live” is not part of my religion or belief system. In fact, it is a doctrine and teaching we find Cain muttering to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is, simply put, a doctrine of the devil, contrary to God’s law.

This is why I am not a libertarian from a philosophical and religion basis. There is a more practical reason why I am not a libertarian. First, some history.

Our country was founded as religious colonies by a religious country. The country we separated from had a state religion, and the king of that country was its head under God himself. The laws were all religious in nature. The freedoms we cherished before we separated from our mother country were all granted by God himself, according to our collective belief. We were a Christian country, in reality, and as far as I know, we never stopped being a Christian country. And not just any plain old Christian country, but a particular flavor of Christianity that isn’t hard to identify.

Thus, when we wrote, as a country, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, we weren’t allowing any debate. We said, “These things are true, and they are so obviously true, we will accept no challenges to them from any grounds.” And what were those truths? That God, the Creator of the earth and mankind, gave us rights. And those rights allowed us the freedom to live, the freedom to do what we thought best, the freedom to pursue happiness (earlier versions had “property”.) Thus, our freedoms to life, our freedoms to liberty, our freedom to property were enshrined as inviolable. Not because we believed “Live and let live”, but because we believed God said so. Taking God out of the equation of our history, taking him out of the foundation that is the cornerstone of our country, is killing the country. It is one and the same. You take away the Creator, you take away the argument that we have rights He gave us that no one can dispute, then we lose those rights. The atheistic libertarian argument is thus not only historically inaccurate, our Founding Fathers would have found it contemptible and even dangerous.

Our country thus not only is formed by these Christian ideals, but in fact, depends on them. Our very existence as a country that resembles that country our ancestors gave us depend on us holding on to this tradition and religion and conveying it to immigrants and descendants.

Finally, I will argue from practicality. I will ignore history, ignore philosophy and religion, and rely on arguments that rely only on the materialistic view of the universe as everything being composed of matter and not form. The argument is rather simple.

Show me, praytell, where libertarianism has been implemented?

And, after giving me the example, show me what effect it has had on the people it governed?

The truth is the following.

One, libertarianism may have been tried, but it does not exist today anywhere. The philosophy “live and let live” has never been successful. See, what inevitably happens when a “free” people, or rather, a people with no government, exist, is evil people with evil intentions take over. They work and wheedle their way into power, and where there is no power to seize, they create it. Go through the history books, and you will see this is the case every time. Take any society that once approached the libertarian ideal, and tell me if it can maintain it so today. And tell me why not. The answer is really simple: Human nature.

This is the crux of my argument: Freedom does not work. Liberty is not an end unto itself. The result of unlimited freedom is captivity. Liberty does not beget liberty. It begets tyranny and slavery. Sure, you may bask in the sunlight of freedom for a season, but it will never last. I’m not talking about hundreds of years, I’m talking about tens of years, or even less. As in, during your lifetime. Right now.

Our Founding Fathers knew this, and so they rejected freedom as libertarians interpret it wholesale. They did not and never did intend for our people to be free in the way libertarians advocate. No, they instead demanded that the churches and religions do their duty and ensure that virtue, that is, self-constraint, reign supreme. Should the people be incapable of governing themselves, they warned, we will soon have someone to govern us against our wills. That is the message of history. Either we submit ourselves to our natures, and end up repressed, oppressed, and subjugated, or we submit ourselves to the Laws of God and embrace the freedom that only Christ can give when we do so.

Our constitution does not enshrine every liberty. None of our ancestors believed we had right to commit suicide or to commit adultery or homosexual acts. We know this because they wrote their laws. They wrote our laws to protect good and moral action, and forbid bad and immoral action. They knew that people needed government, they needed something to dictate what is right and wrong to those who refused to govern themselves, and they needed its fearful power to hurt those who would govern us as they govern themselves. The constitution was written in such a way that government could have more power, not less. It replaced the Articles of Confederation which were much more like what a libertarian advocates than what our Founding Fathers settled upon. The beauty of the constitution is that it limits government, yes, but the idea of limited government was not new. The beauty is how it limits government, how it ensures that it will fight itself rather than the people when the people’s God-given rights are at stake.

Yes, our country is sick. We are sick because we have all gone astray and worship false gods and embrace moralities that cannot give us happiness or peace. Among these are the false gods of the atheists and the corrupt morality of the libertarian. The way to restore health is not to kill the dying creature, but to bring back its life and vitality: a belief in a living God who loves his people and commands them to love him and each other, for their own good and not out of selfishness or vanity. We know we were once alive and vibrant, and now we are not, and so we should be returning to the principles that made us free, not inventing new ones.

“Oh, you are trying to impose your morality on us!” they shriek. What they don’t realize is that this is not the case. Instead, look deep inside yourself, and ask if your efforts to enshrine “live and let live” as the ultimate morality is not imposing your morality on me. See, I do not believe for one second that government force can coerce one to believe in God and worship him the way He intends. So I do not believe for one second that government should try. But you do believe that you can force people to “live and let live” if you were to get control of the government. Instead, you should be sending missionaries door-to-door to explain one-on-one why your moral system is superior to mine. It bothers you that your morality cannot inspire 18 and 19 year old kids to give up 2 years of their life in sharing it with others. Perhaps you should understand that is why your morality is dead and fruitless.

I appreciate what libertarians have done in helping to convince people in freedom in economic matters. But I am wholeheartedly in disagreement about what they are trying to do in moral matters. That is why we don’t get along. We never will. Our beliefs are fundamentally opposed to each other. You will let your neighbor’s house burn down. I will put it out. Even if they don’t know their house is on fire.

On Being a Mormon, in my own words

April 26, 2015 by

Having established why I am Christian, it is only appropriate to establish why I am mormon, and what that means to me, and what I wished it meant to you.

The unfortunate reality of Christianity is that we are divided. We have arranged ourselves into sects and orders, divided by creeds and oaths. The sad state of Christianity is that rather than focus on our love of God and love of neighbor, we instead seem to focus on what we are or are not. That’s not what Christ taught us, and yet it is where we are at.

The mormons are no different. We have a long way to go towards perfection. We freely admit this! I haven’t met a mormon yet who is willing to stand in front of a group of people and say they are perfect disciples of Christ. I haven’t met a ward or stake or any group of mormons who claim they have successfully lived Christ’s commandments and established Zion in their corner of the woods. I don’t suspect I ever will, at least not until we are purified by Christ at his coming.

Nevertheless, let me draw out what makes a mormon and a non-mormon. While the requirement to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is baptism by one who has authority, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who has authority, that is not really what makes us mormon. That is not the secret ingredient, because I know lots of people I consider mormon who are not baptized. I also know lots of people who are baptized but I wouldn’t call mormon.

The secret ingredient, in my mind, is a single willingness to serve God in every way. This requires absolute humility and allegiance not to any leader or council of leaders, but to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is also a sincere and unconditional love for everyone around them. These are, after all, the entirerty of the Law and the Prophets.

A mormon feels their religion. When the prophet speaks, they feel the Holy Ghost carry those words into their hearts. When someone, no matter how old or young, speaks truth, they feel the Holy Ghost carry it with just as much force.

A mormon is hungry for the words of Christ. They read the scriptures daily not because it is a duty, but because they have an insatiable desire to relive those feelings they felt when they last read them. The stories in the Bible and Book of Mormon are not about a far-away people in a far-away land and a far-away time, but about them and their own interactions with Christ.

A mormon is hungry to serve. They feel good when they help others. One of my friends said that he went to his dad’s place for his birthday. His dad tried to have him sit down and enjoy a quiet afternoon, but he felt restless and went to work on his dad’s shrubs and lawn. His dad tried to stop him and said he needed to rest and enjoy his birthday. And he said to his dad, “Don’t you understand yet? I am happiest when I am helping you. There is no greater gift that you can give me than letting me help you and feel the joy of service with you.”

A mormon goes to all their meetings. They should grumble for exactly half of them, but for the rest of them, they come away filled with the Spirit. Our meetings are silly to the world. We open with a prayer, sing a hymn, testify of basic doctrines, and then re-read scriptures and books we’ve already read a thousand times. Then we make some plans about what we will do, and then pray again. Yet they are powerful to us.

A mormon is shy about sharing their religion. That’s because it’s very precious to them, and they hate that feeling that they may destroy their friendships or family relationships when they try to share them. Nevertheless, they do share it, oftentimes in an awkward way.

A mormon spends a lot of time in the temple. We are drawn there by the Spirit. We don’t really understand why we go there or what significance the thing we do there have to God, but we know it’s important because it feels important.

A mormon searches out their ancestors. Why? Because we care about them and we feel a connection to them. It doesn’t matter where they came from or who they were. They cared enough to give birth to our ancestors, and probably did a decent job keeping them fed and clothed. There’s no more sacred title to mormons than mother or father, and we expect those who didn’t live a good life will be given the opportunity to change.

A mormon spends entirely too much time talking to their friends. They are also unusually kind to people who probably don’t deserve it, and oftentimes trust people more than they should. This may just be the psychological phenomena of projection, or it may be their sincere hopes that others see people the way they do.

These are the things that make someone mormon. They are the things I look for in other mormons. When I see them, I smile a lot inside because I know someone else “gets it”.

Everything else is really ancillary. We have lots of doctrines. Well, really, not that many. When we talk about them, we feel good inside. But honestly, we really don’t care if you accept them all or not. I know lots of mormons who don’t accept all our doctrines, and that’s ok. Maybe I don’t understand the doctrines the right way, and maybe they have a better understanding than I do. Or maybe God just hasn’t testified to them of that doctrine yet. Either way, it’s really none of my business.

Also notice that I don’t count mormons by their obedience to one commandment or another. People sometimes get confused because we spend a lot of time talking about all the commandments we know God expects us to keep. And then they know that we can’t keep all of them, and wonder why we even try. It’s complicated, but our obedience to commandments should be driven purely out of our love for God and fellow man. When we mess up, we repent and try again. But we don’t, or rather, we shouldn’t, expect our obedience to any commandment to punch a golden ticket to heaven. After all, there will be a lot of people who have kept a lot of commandments but have forgotten the two most important ones: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Really, if you’re not keeping those two, no amount of piety will save you.

Now that I’ve said my piece, it’s important I tell you who I consider as non-mormon. As I’ve grown older and more experienced in matters of the spirit, I have come to understand that there really aren’t any non-mormons. We each have some of mormon-ness in us. It’s a futile exercise to try and predict which ones of us are wheat and which are tares anyway. I’m much happier thinking that maybe we’re all tares together. Or maybe we’re all wheat, and there are no tares, but we all have to experience what being a tare feels like. I don’t like thinking that any one of us will choose to refuse the wonderful gifts that God has prepared for us. I don’t think God sent us here to fail. He wants us to succeed. He is on our side, and since he is all-powerful, that means something big.

See, we intend to baptize the whole earth. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did or didn’t do, we will not rest until the entire world has all the saving gospel ordinances that all of us have received. We will not be happy until we can all stand before God and say, “We are all accounted for, every one of us. All of us are baptized, all of us are ready to enter into celestial glory with Christ.” That’s my sincere prayer.

On Being a Christian in My Own Words

April 24, 2015 by

This has weighed heavily on me for a long time. I think it’s time I actually wrote something.

I am a Christian. You deserve to know what that means to me. If you listen to what others tell you about Christians, and ignore what I have to say about what I believe for myself, then you are going to be misinformed.

The first truth I acknowledge as a Christian is that there is a God in heaven. He is the personification of perfection in every imaginable form. He is good. He is just. He is kind. He is wise. He personifies the strongest human emotion, love, and loves each of us with a love so deep we cannot begin to understand it. My God is not vengeful or rude. He is the ultimate scientist, the ultimate judge, the ultimate parent, the lover of us all. He spends all his time and effort trying to bring us back to him, and yet respects our right to choose in even the smallest matters of consequence.

The second truth I acknowledge is that we are not God. We are all far, far away from the perfection we wish we could be. This is manifested in a number of ways. First is sin, our disobedience to what we know to be right. Next is transgression, our incapability to find a way forward without breaking one moral law or another despite our good intentions. Next is imperfection, our weakness and limited capacity. We all wish we had infinite intelligence, infinite strength, but we don’t. All of these imperfections are summed up in the word “mortal” or rather, “beings that will die.” That is our defining trait: We are not perfect, and never can be, in any way.

Physics teaches us that we will all die. No matter what we do, all our efforts will come to naught. The entire universe is on a road to the heat death that will consume all. At best, we are a spark, but even then, we are a dim one. Sure, we compare ourselves to each other, and decide that so-and-so is better than such-and-such, but in the grand, universal perspective of things, that doesn’t matter. We are a tiny speck in a huge universe that doesn’t care about us. We are just in a transition from what the universe is to what it will eventually be — nothing.

This inescapable truth is what gives rise to nihilism. Yes, I am a nihilist, inasmuch as I believe that as mortals, we can do nothing. Our best efforts are laughable and incompetent.

The third truth I acknowledge is that God sent his Son to redeem us. He has overcome logic and reason and science and he stands above it all. He extends a hand to us, asking us to embrace him and rise above our mortal limitations. We will die, but he promises resurrection. We will sin, but he promises forgiveness. We will falter but he promises success.

This is, in short, the three great truths. God is great. We are not. But God provided us a way to overcome ourselves.

The core of it all is the principle of grace. Christ offers us salvation, without money or price. We literally have nothing we can pay him for what he already did for us. All we can do is accept his gift, which he eagerly hopes we will. How can we accept that gift? First, we must place all our faith and hope in Christ. There is nothing in mankind or ourselves worth leaning on. We can only lean on God. Second, we must repent, or rather, turn back to face God. When we find ourselves out of sync, we align ourselves with him again. He has already said he doesn’t care whether we falter (we always will), he simply wants us to strive to be like him.

This is the powerful center of true Christian worship. This is the power that allows us to have a mighty change of heart. When we embrace the truth that man is nothing yet God loves us anyway, we feel sincere love for God who loved us first. When we begin to see the people around us, mortal and flawed, yet loved by God, then we begin to love them too, even though they are mortal and flawed. Only when we are motivated out of pure, godly love can we hope to begin to keep the commandments, summarized by Christ himself as “Love God” and “Love others as yourself”.

To my brothers and sisters who already believe in Christ and are already trying to be like him (and failing miserably, as we all do), I embrace you, no matter what faith you come from. I believe Christ sees all his believers as belonging to his church. I believe he wants us all to work together and share what we believe with each other, and embrace greater and greater truth and light as he reveals it to us. You are my friend, as I hope I am yours. I will support you as you try to do what you believe is right.

To my brothers and sisters who do not yet believe in Christ, I promise that Christ still loves you with a love you cannot comprehend. He is holding out his hand to you, offering you the most magnificent gift there ever was to offer. I cannot make you accept that gift, and my pathetic words are not enough to convince anyone on their own. But perhaps you will feel the Spirit prick your heart and plant a desire to obtain these things for yourself. I promise that they are available. When the time is right, you will understand what I mean. Until then. patience.

Christ does not change the fact that there are laws, irrevocably decreed, that govern every aspect of the universe. We can never, ever say that breaking those laws will bring us happiness. We can say, however, that there is only hope in Christ. Hope that Christ can erase the consequences of our foolishness, hope that Christ can give us strength to live the way we know we should, hope that Christ can show us the universe as it really is.

I wish only the best for all mankind and even people who hate me and are actively trying to hurt me. I pray that Christ can give me a more perfect understanding, forgive me for all my faults, and cure me of my wicked heart, and the same for those around me. This is a prayer that I offer to God in the name of Christ. May it be so is my desire.

You’re just a checkbox to the WA Democratic Party

April 24, 2015 by

Somehow I’ve ended up on the mailing list for the WA state democratic party. I don’t mind being one of the first to hear their latest talking points.

Recently, they sent an email where they solicited my feedback on what matters most to me. “OK,” I thought, “Maybe I can tell them what I think.” When I clicked on the link, I saw a list of checkboxes next to words like “Education” and “LGBT Issues”. There was no text form to fill in what I thought in my own words.

Isn’t that fitting? The Democratic Party has long claimed to be the part of the people, but in reality, you’re just a number to them. They’ll say whatever it takes to get you to fill in the right box come election day. But beyond that, you don’t matter.

It’s like the democrats running around claiming that “every black life matters” while ignoring the true slaughter of millions of the unborn who happen to be black, or the black-on-black crime that they completely fail to take seriously. If they cared about every black life, they would start by working to end abortion in this country and then to end street crime. But they don’t. They only care as much as it takes to get their vote each year, and since blacks overwhelmingly vote democrat each election, that means they don’t care much at all.

I can’t say much in defense of the republican party. Can you point to one thing they’ve tried to do in the past 10 years to help anyone but their own re-election campaigns? I can’t. Sure, there are a few who stand up and speak out, and occasionally they almost accomplish something, but that’s about it.

If you expect anyone in government cares about you, or that the ones that do have any power to do anything to help you, you are deceiving yourself. Government is force. It is violent and bloody oppression. Government should be kept on a short leash, a chain leash, with a choke chain that the people can yank whenever it gets out of line. The constitution used to give us that power, but now it doesn’t mean much and so we are left to be pawns in their game.

Republican Politics and Immigration

February 4, 2015 by

I don’t know how to tell my republican friends this, but immigration is done. The establishment is going to open the borders, and you can’t do anything about it.

We should’ve seen the writing on the wall, here. The only people opposed to mass immigration into the US are patriots who want to protect our political heritage and protectionists who haven’t understood Adam Smith.

I propose a compromise position that should satisfy everyone but a minority in our country. I call it “open and secure” borders.

This is how it works.

First, we open our borders. We allow anyone to enter our country provided they show us a passport and have gotten proper immunizations and don’t carry infectious diseases or mean us harm. At the borders, we check people’s passports. We review their health status and ask for records showing a clean bill of health. If they have the potential for disease, we put them in quarantine. If they don’t have the right shots, we send them home to get them. We build up a database of people we know are our enemies and check for them at our border. We also ask them to swear an oath or something that they will abide by our laws and that they come here in peace.

Second, we secure our borders. With the checkpoints all open, we build a fence. We secure the fence, and we direct all potential crossers to the checkpoint. If you cross illegally, you get taken to the other side of the checkpoint. If you do it habitually, we put you in prison.

The effects of this policy are pretty obvious. They are not all bad, and some of them are quite good.

Economically, we’ll have a large influx of people willing to work for lower wages than Americans. This is good in that the cost of labor will go down, but bad because a lot of Americans can’t compete internationally. I don’t think Americans are as weak as protectionists say they are, and I really don’t see the problem with Juan living and working in my community. Juan wants to send his paycheck back to Mexico, I’m fine with that, too. It only means Mexico will be buying stuff from America eventually. In short, economic freedom (within moral limits, of course) is the best economic policy known to man. We shouldn’t discriminate against people based on their nation of origin and say they don’t have a right to work on our stretch of dirt simply because they were born in the wrong part of the world.

In short, economically, we’ll be putting up billboards, “Now hiring” and “Open for Business.” The world will come, and they will make the USA the center of the world’s economy.

Socially, we’ll have the problems of poverty, ignorance, and culture. Poverty is solved with hard work, so opening up the marketplace to the poor is the best answer. Ignorance is corrected with proper motivation, and seeing others living the lifestyle of the educated American is plenty of motivation to force your kids to complete high school and get a college education.

Culture is tricky. To be frank, this is the one thing that frightens me. I don’t want America to be “just another country”. There are two aspects of our culture.

One is our domestic / civil culture. It’s how we treat each other in our homes and outside. It’s very important that we teach people that honesty is the best policy, helping others is as important as helping yourself, and the rich have a duty to help the poor. This is a task our churches and such need to focus on. The government shouldn’t participate at all. The other side is our political culture. I do not want to give immigrants the same right to vote that I have, mostly because I do not believe they will respect our political heritage and history. If they had a good political culture in their country, they would not be desperate to come to ours.

The solution to the political culture problem is to tighten up who gets to vote and who gets to be a citizen. This is where I think we *should* be fighting our battle. We should be diligently monitoring elections and scrubbing voting lists. We should be focused like a laser on who we allow to be a citizen and who we don’t. I believe our current system is too lax. Simply knowing how our government works is not enough. We should test whether people understand that voting yourself money will lead to the ruin of the country, and whether they can be easily persuaded by bad political arguments. In fact, I want people to witness that the new citizen will be honest and upright and will take their right to vote seriously. I wish we could do the same for people born here!

I’m not concerned about “bankrupting” our social welfare programs. We’ve tried “starve the beast”. It failed. Let’s try “break the beast”. Socialism fails wherever it is tried. Let’s let it fail.

On the Latest Muslim Brouhaha

January 13, 2015 by

A group of Muslims murdered some journalists in France. Their claimed justification was that they published images that insulted their prophet.

A lot of leftists here in the US and Europe want us to self-censor. A lot of others want us to stir up hatred among the Muslim community by publishing even more insulting things.

I think we need to rethink what is most important.

First, the condition of entering into a society like France’s is that you will uphold their law. If you don’t intend to keep their laws and customs, then don’t go to France. France needs to police their own borders. It would be perfectly justifiable if they asked incoming people of the Muslim persuasion, “Will you get angry if someone publishes something that insults your religion?” and “Will you either harm or protect those who harm someone who does so?” If the answer is contrary to their ideals, then France has every right to say, “I’m sorry, you’re not allowed in our country.” If the French have reason to suspect the individual is lying, then they can ban such people outright from their country, just based on something such as the people they’ve associated with or their country of origin. If there is some legally binding method in their religion whereby they can get them to swear an oath that they will not harm nor protect those who would harm them, then they should employ it.

The United States needs similar controls. We should have a way to figure out whether someone coming in to our borders intends to keep our laws and customs or whether they intend to break it. With our borders the way they are, we have lost control completely. We have no idea who is coming in our country nor what their intentions are. The only remedy I can think of is “open, secure” borders. That is, everyone is welcome to come in to our country, provided they use legal entry points and declare their intentions upon arrival. Everyone else is not welcome and should be hunted as an enemy.

Second, I don’t believe there is any purpose to insulting Islam. I don’t like it when people make fun of my church, and I believe that the rule that Jesus laid down is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I go out of my way *not* to insult other people’s beliefs. If people are sensible and calm and rational, then I’ll engage in a discussion about their religion, and that may involve asking questions or making statements that may be considered offensive, but if they’re so touchy that they would react violently, I leave them alone.

We should be honest in acknowledging what Islam is and what they hold sacred, we should avoid insulting them intentionally, but of course, we shouldn’t cater to their perversions.

Third, I think justice in this case involves more than finding the people who killed the journalists and their accomplices, along with all those who tried to shelter them. Find them all, punish them with the law, but understand that you can’t play whack-a-mole and expect your citizens to live freely. Proactive work needs to be done. The French need to infiltrate the Muslim community and identify those who would resort to violence and those who would not keep their laws and kick them out of the country. If there are state or state-like actors who intend to harm their country, they should be engaging in war with them as we speak. Remember, free societies don’t declare war, but we do acknowledge war with belligerents and we should take it seriously, no matter how small they seem now. It doesn’t take much resources to kill your people in their homeland.

The War on Terror in Iraq was ingenious. An entire generation of Muslim radicals were tricked into pouring into Iraq and slaughtered. We need to keep this up. We need to create a scenario where they are much more likely to go to one of their countries and wage war, and we can fight them secure in the knowledge that we’re not fighting them at home. I think today ISIS is a great magnet for these kinds of people, and we should send the message to the Muslim youth that joining ISIS is the best path to jihad. At the same time, we should be slaughtering them by the thousands.

It’s high time we treated Muslims as human beings. As human beings, we need to explain to them what rules they need to live by, the same rules we live by. Those who follow the rules should be accepted as equals. Those who don’t need to be treated justly. Justice means executing the murderer and pursuing war when we are pursued by war until we gain peace through the submission of our aggressors.

God’s Love

December 6, 2014 by

I want to digress slightly to a religious subject, one that I care about and I feel like everyone should care about. If you really want to understand conservatism, you have to understand religion.

At a baptism today, the sister missionaries shared the first lesson they teach to people learning about our church. Many people don’t get to the second or third lessons, so this is the only lesson many people will ever hear about us. We obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the best things to put in there and what to leave out.

I still remember vividly my MTC (Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT) instructor asking us to pull our seats a little more closer together. He said, “I’m going to show you how to teach the first lesson.” I don’t know what I expected. I intended to pull out a notepad and take notes. He signaled us to put our stuff away and listen with our hearts. I obliged.

He started off with a simple phrase like, “God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us and has prepared a plan of happiness for us.”

The Spirit overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed everyone in that room. What a wonderful, beautiful message! Missionary work seemed so easy in that moment: All we have to do is tell people those magical words, the spirit will come, and they’ll beg to be baptized. At least that’s what it seemed like at the time.

The sister missionaries began their lesson today in the same way. “God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us and has prepared a plan so that we can be happy.” The Spirit came. It washed over me, bathing me with warmth, peace, and comfort.

I was flushed with memories of that moment when the MTC instructor taught me what a missionary lesson should be like. I was struck by all the memories of the hundreds of times I shared a similar message with people, in Korean or English or whatever. Sometimes I shared it with a smile, because that’s all I could give them at the time. My whole intent was to reach out, heart-to-heart, and have people feel a little of what I felt.

I thought of how I love this church. I love it because this idea is the heart and soul of the church, the assumption that God loves us like parents love a little child, and he simply wants us to be happy. It’s what makes us tick. It’s why we wake up early and go to our leadership meetings and then spend 3 hours in church and then hours afterward visiting the sick and lonely. It’s why I gather my kids together and read scriptures with them or teach them lessons about the gospel. It’s why I’m happy to pay a 10% tithe along with generous donations to the poor.

I love it because that’s all people really need to hear. They’re going through a tough time, a divorce or a child’s tragedy, or sickness or whatever. They are hungry for some kind of hope or purpose to their misery, and everything becomes so clear when they look at their life through that lens. “God loves you. He knows you. He wants you to be happy.” It’s going to be OK!

I wish I could somehow get that message across to everyone. Mormonism is many things, but at the very center of it is that simple message. I want people to think “Joseph Smith: Witness of God’s love.” or “The Book of Mormon: Witness that God wants us to be happy.” or even, “Hey, there’s those silly guys with the black name tags! They want to tell us God loves us and we can be happy!” I want the brand “Mormon” to mean these things, nothing more or less. Mormonism: God loves you and wants you to be happy!

It’s not polygamy. It’s not the Book of Mormon. It’s not even the priesthood authority or our understanding of the trinity. These things are important, but they are not the reason why I am a mormon. I wake up in the morning, grateful to be alive because I know that God loves me and he wants me to live another day. If I don’t wake up, or if I die tragically sometime during the day, it’s OK. God loves me! I face challenges knowing that they are put there to refine me and teach my how to be happy. I see all the tender mercies of the Lord and say, “Ah! Another sign that God is thinking of me and wants me to be happy!” These other things build on that and add to it, and so I keep it as part of my own faith.

Thank you, sister missionaries. You reminded this brother about what the entire point is all about. Thank you for sharing the Holy Ghost with simple words that we sometimes repeat too often forgetting what they are supposed to mean.

To everyone else: I don’t care which church you are in or whether you believe in God at all. I do care that you feel as I do, that God loves you as a child is loved by a parent. God knows what he is doing. He has a plan to make you happy. And he wants you to be happy.

Thoughts on Atheism

October 29, 2014 by

Oftentimes, when considering an important decision, I make a chart to analyze the cost and benefit of each choice. Since belief is a choice, I think it is wise to list the cost and benefits of atheism vs. Christianity on an individual basis. You can draw up a similar chart for society and thus make your decision on what kind of society you advocate.

The thing about atheism is it is really hard to define. If I were to say atheism is the belief that there is no God, atheists would retort that it is the absence of a belief in God, and not a belief that there is no God. Despite the fact that these two things are logically the same statements, let us stick to the definition atheists like to use: the lack of belief in a God.

So, the question is the following: Should I believe in no God, or should I believe in the Christian God of the Bible? I will analyze this question purely on the cost and benefit of believing either way.

On atheism’s side, there is literally no benefit. There is no cost as well, except the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the cost of *not* doing something. For instance, buying a stick of gum means you can’t buy a gumball with the same money. When doing cost-benefit analysis, you can ignore opportunity cost since it will show up as a benefit for the other choices you are looking. So my final analysis of atheism is it gives me nothing but it costs me nothing. It is simply nothing.

On Christianity’s side, if I choose to believe in the Christian God of the Bible, then I have severe costs. For starters, I must believe that there is a God, and that God did certain things. Among the most important things God has done is he has created this world we live in, given us our very lives, and given us a Savior. He has also given us positive and negative commandments out of love. If we choose to believe in this God, then we will feel a pressure to obey these commandments. All of the commandments can be summed up in the simple statements, “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, since this is the sum of all the commandments, we can ignore any commandments which we interpret such that it would contradict the first two great commandment. For instance, if we feel our church attendance would somehow deny someone love, then we can abstain until we can resolve the conflict. This is something Jesus taught by example. For instance, he threshed wheat with his hands on the Sabbath, and healed the sick on the Sabbath, and even told us to pull our oxen out of the mires on the Sabbath.

However, there are a few beliefs I must also take along with the entire package. I must believe that God is in charge and that he is defined by love and good, or rather, good and love are defined by Him. I must believe that God loves us so much he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for our weakness and incompetence, so that we won’t die but that we can live forever. I must believe that the ultimate destination of this world is a heavenly realm where sickness, disease, discomfort, and evil are completely abolished and replaced with rejoicing and pure bliss. I must believe that good will always overcome evil. I must believe, especially, that people can and will change for the better.

What are the benefits of Christianity?

First, we add structure and meaning to our lives. Events are not random — they are given to us by God for a purpose. And so we can search out what purpose every event has. Tragedies are rewritten to become blessings. We find that suffering is not pointless but part of the refiner’s fire of our lives. This alone is enough to make the intolerable condition of human suffering tolerable. In short, God can swallow up our suffering.

Second, we live peaceful lives. Because the two great commandments command us to love each other live we would want to be loved, we obviously treat others the way we want to be treated. This is the foundation for the idea of natural human rights, such as the right to life, the right to speak, etc… We simply afford others something we would like to have for ourselves.

Third, many Christians report feeling their guilt and sorrow washed away as they embrace the gospel that Christ taught us. We can also obtain a similar relief to our conscience, and be an instrument in helping others find such relief.

Fourth, we find the foundation of modern science. Christianity teaches us that God is unchanging, that he governs by law, and most especially, that we can understand that law because we can become like God. In fact, Christianity teaches us to search, knock, and ask, and promises us that we will find, the way will be opened, and we will be answered. This is the foundation of modern science: an irrational hope that the universe does conform to law and that we can not only understand that law, but discover it through searching. Do I need to list the blessings and conveniences that our Christian pursuit of knowledge has given us?

Fifth, we have hope. We have hope for a better world. We have hope that we can change. We have hope that others can change. We have hope that God will perform a miracle in our lives or the lives of our friends or enemies. In the face of absolute despair, the true Christian can say, “Perhaps, perhaps, God can change things and make it better. If not today, then tomorrow.”

I think it is fairly obvious which way I choose to believe.

Why Religion Matters in a Post-Scarcity World

July 26, 2014 by

This will be last on this for a while. I’ll write more when I think of things.

Why religion matters:

  • Religion gives us meaning.
  • It gives us something to do and focus on.
  • It teaches us to love each other and be nice to each other.

In a world where scarcity is everpresent, religion teaches us to have compassion on each other and help each other out. Read the Bible if you don’t see it for yourselves. Even the Israelites, under strict commandment to obey the Law of Moses, had laws given to them that demanded they help the poor. For instance, people who had fields had to leave some of their harvest on the ground for the poor to eat, and had to allow people passing by to eat from their trees or their fields (although they couldn’t pack anything away.) What a wonderful society that would be if those were actual religious obligations!

Christianity expanded upon Jewish charity. Jesus taught the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor before entering into the ministry. Jesus ate with the poor and the rich. He had one of his apostles collect money and give it to the poor. Jesus was a walking primitive walk-in clinic. In the epistles, we read countless times exhortations to take care of the widows and the orphans, to help the poor. In fact, in Acts we read of Ananias, who sold his house to give the money to the church so that the church could help the poor, but he kept some back and lied about it. God didn’t like that at all, so he struck him dead. That gives a hint to all Christians about how important charity is to God.

That’s all well and good, and is totally applicable in an economy with scarcity. I mean, this is the grease that keeps the economic engine running. When people get pushed out of the economy, religious people should be there to help them get back in, feed them, clothe them, heal them, and do whatever it takes to make them whole again.

What about a post-scarcity economy? What many people don’t realize is that Christianity is really designed for a post-scarcity economy. We look forward to millennial times, when the earth will be changed such that we won’t have weeds. We’ll cover our buildings with precious gems and metals, we’ll make our streets out of the most precious things during this time. Why will the earth change? We don’t know exactly, but I feel a large part will be because our attitudes will be different. We’ll actually care about each other and go out of our way to help each other. Maybe we won’t have weeds anymore because we’ll all work together to completely eradicate them. Maybe we’ll have gems on our buildings and streets because our economy grows and grows and grows until making gems isn’t a big deal.

Without religion, what purpose is there? Why go out of your way to help someone who falls by the wayside? What meaning do you have in the things you build with your hands or the things you own or the things you give away? Everyone needs something to give themselves and their actions meaning. I believe we should make it a point to make it our religious obligation to help one another and see to their needs as much as our own. We should make that priority #1 in everything we do. I truly believe that if we focus on helping each other, all the problems we have will be solved. If people can’t solve their own problems, then people who can will show up to help them solve them. Isn’t that the kind of world we want to live in?

I think we are wise when we examine closely the life Jesus had. He had everything. He could do everything. And look how he decided to spend it! Do you think maybe the two are connected somehow — that without the attributes of Christ in our very character, we simply can’t enjoy a post-scarcity existence? I believe so.


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