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.

How Democrats view Republicans: The Real War

September 28, 2016 by

I often try to picture myself as my opponent. If I can get inside his head, I can understand enough that perhaps we don’t have to fight each other. Or at least, we can correctly identify where the fight really is and so keep ourselves fighting over what truly matters rather than being distracted by unimportant things.

I had this experience recently at work, when some engineers decided that we should switch from a dynamically typed language to a statically typed language. The argument they presented was full of air and I was able to easily point them out, because I understand why they wanted static types and I understand what the weaknesses of dynamic typing really are.

When it comes to politics, though, I am not so successful at understanding my opponents. To be honest, I have a hard time understanding my allies.

At the top level, politics is a sort of “Red vs. Blue” game. In the Byzantine Empire, the city of Constantinople was caught up in this sort of mentality. The Reds and Blues were pretty evenly matched, and the political elite were using that to their advantage.

If you’re this sort of republican or democrat, I beg you, please stop. Politics is not a sport. Your lives are at stake. If you let the “Red vs. Blue” argument influence you, you’re being manipulated and there is only sadness at the end of that road.

What do I mean by “Red vs. Blue”? I mean the pointless “us vs. them” type arguments. “Don’t vote for him — he’s a democrat!” or vice-versa. If you identify with a party simply because you’ve always identified with that party and your ancestors identified with that party, you need to stop that right now.

See, it’s not an “us vs. them” game. Either we all win, or we all lose together. The worst sort of system is one where one of the groups of elite control everything, rewarding their allies and punishing their enemies. This is how you divide a country and weaken it and set it up for failure. Sure, you may be living the life while you’re getting benefits for being on the right team, but in all cases, this sort of system collapses under its own weight. When too many people are on the take and not enough people are on the give, the takers start wars.

So, I am going to ignore all those people who let the “Red vs. Blue” argument persuade them to vote one way or the other. They’re a lost cause, the real source of our problems, and they won’t like what I have to hear anyway. So begone!

There are those who are ideologues. By that, I mean people with an ideology they think is superior. Now, I can’t consider every ideology that people might adhere to, but I can classify them when it comes to government. In short, there are the “statists” and the “anti-statists”. By “statist”, I mean those who want to use government to do something positive. such as feeding the poor or sheltering the homeless or clothing the naked. The anti-statists, on the other hand, don’t want government involved in these things, but want to keep it constrained to a minimum set of well-defined jobs.

If I were to argue with a statist, the argument would go something like this.

First, they would accuse me of misanthropy. That is, that I didn’t care about the poor or the needy. I disarm this argument by saying that I give a lot of money and time and effort to help the poor in my own community, and I think others should do the same.

They might argue about scale and efficiency, in which case, I would point out that sending your money to a group of bureaucrats who are far removed from the actual problems of poverty is worse than just giving the money directly to the poor. We know that the poor will likely spend the money on things like alcohol or worse, but the bureaucrats will do something even more insidious: They will run propaganda campaigns to protect their jobs, they will expand their role, and they will grow the bureaucracy, all the while doing the absolute bare minimum to convince people that they are helping the poor. The people they need to convince, however, are not the poor. They can complain all they like, they have no power to change things since they are poor.

They might argue that people won’t voluntarily help the poor, that we are all misanthropes and we need government to force us to be good. This argument is exactly the same as the arguments we used to make in favor of state religion. I could expand upon this idea until its logical conclusion, a state where there is no freedom because the government forces everyone to do good all the time, free-will be damned.

As you can see, I understand pretty well all the arguments people make to grow the government in a misguided attempt to help the poor. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of ideologues around, and on the left, they are hopelessly morally bankrupt and illogical beyond repair. So there’s little point in explaining to them again and again why they are wrong when they can’t even do basic logic.

I want to address one more type of person who chooses to support a party. This is the greedy, the morally bankrupt, the tyrant-in-waiting. Take, for example, someone like Bill Clinton. It’s clear by watching his behavior that Bill Clinton does what Bill Clinton wants, and he’s a democrat because that maximizes his power and freedom to sleep with whatever creature he likes, whenever he wants to. Bill Clinton isn’t the only one. I suspect Donald Trump as well as pretty much any politician you have ever heard of (especially Hillary Clinton) fall into this camp as well.

Now, consider what happens if two Bill Clinton clones ran into each other. There are only two possible results of such an encounter. Either they discover that they both want the same things, and begin the process of waging war against each other to get what they want and to keep the other from having it first, or they (by happenstance or agreement) come to a truce where they draw a line they won’t cross. The benefit of the truce is they can eventually become allies and help each other get what each other wants at the cost of others.

It is this sort of person that has a choice when it comes to government. They either treat government as a tool to get what they want at the cost of others, or they use it as a tool to enforce a treaty line between other powerful entities like themselves. They can also use government as the clearinghouse for alliances.

Which gets me to my point. Hillary Clinton is a power-hungry mobster who is using the first option. She is openly attacking her political opponents, and even waging intra-party warfare. She’s been doing this for years and years. The primaries where Obama was first nominated was some of the worst sort of intra-party warfare I’ve ever seen. People at this level know exactly who Hillary is and how she works, and they have either fallen into an alliance with her or they have her marked as an enemy.

What about Donald Trump? Suppose Donald Trump is entirely selfish. (I do.) Donald Trump has proven time and again to be a powerful ally. He is the sort of person you don’t cross because you really don’t need to. He has ambitions, of course, but his ambitions generally don’t contradict yours. But from what I hear, people are loyal to him because he is loyal to them.

If this election were comparable to what happened in the Middle Ages when two powerful factions argued over which child gets to be the next king, then Donald Trump would be the one choosing the king, and Hillary Clinton and her allies would of necessity be in hiding. Sure, they may have their power for a day, but eventually, the cost of being mean adds up and you find you have fewer allies than you thought.

And also brings me to this point: When you have people waging war through our American government, they have a choice. Either they can use the government to hurt or they can limit government’s power. The only type of person who would limit government is the type of person who doesn’t like the people in government. That’s Donald Trump to a T. I don’t have to know what his political ideology is, I know that he is going to clean house and either replace or remove entire departments in the federal government.

The bureaucracy has to face this fact and that’s why they are pushing Hillary. They know they are going to lose their jobs and their power if America elects Trump.

“Would you rather?”

September 28, 2016 by

There is a logical fallacy called the “false dilemma”. In it, the argument goes that there are only a limited number of options, and you have to choose one or the other of them to be true, because they can’t all be true together and they can’t all be false together. Only one must be true and the other false.

The fallacy comes in to play when you realize that it isn’t a dilemma because there are more than the options presented, or some of them can be true together, or all of them can be false together.

Let me present some dilemmas that I don’t consider to be false. Let’s play the game of “Would you rather?”

Would you rather allow all people to keep and bear arms, or only have the political elite and rich have access to guns?

Would you rather have limited regulations and taxes and government and a vibrant economy with many small businesses and strong businesses that rise and fall like the tide, or a weak economy with heavy regulations, taxes, and a tyrannical government, with few small businesses but massive mega-corporations that live in an unhealthy alliance with the state?

Would you rather have 1% of a billion dollars or 90% of a million?

Would you rather live in a society where some people are very rich and some poor, or a society where everyone is very poor?

Would you rather live as an emperor in ancient Rome or a poor black person in modern America?

Would you rather have people free to speak their minds, even though they have a lot of stupid ideas, as well as offensive and even repulsive ideas, or only allow the rich and powerful to decide what is allowed to be said?

Would you rather have government “provide” basic services at extremely inflated costs and with horrible inefficiency, or allow the free market to do its thing, even though some people wouldn’t have access to top-of-the-line medical care and other important services?

Would you rather fight long, protracted, bloody wars, or short, intense, violent wars?

Would you rather live in a society where people who want to kill you are free to do what they please, or a society where we have strict rules about who is allowed to come and go, and those laws are strictly enforced?

Would you rather live in a neighborhood where the rule of law is paramount, where even small infractions of the law are taken seriously, no matter the skin color or background of the offender, or a neighborhood where there is no law, especially for people with the “wrong” skin color or from troubled backgrounds?

Would you rather live in a society where religion is frequently and passionately discussed, but people are free to believe what they like, or a society where only “acceptable” beliefs can be publicly proclaimed and endorsed by government, and people who believe differently are met with distrust and bigotry?

Would you rather spend your own time and money helping the poor, or create a massive government bureaucracy with other people’s money that helps no one but empowers the political elite and creates a “vote plantation” where people who depend upon the government services believe they have to vote the same political elite in each year or else they might starve?

Would you rather support parents as the only people capable of teaching children, blaming the ignorance of the next generation solely on their parents, or create a massive bureaucracy complete with powerful unions that strain the economy while actually making kids dumber and which marginalizes parents in favor of an industrial era view of education?

Would you rather live in freedom or would you rather live in slavery?

Would you rather live in freedom knowing that the only person who will ever feed you and clothe you and shelter you is yourself, or slavery where you have no freedoms but at least you get three square meals and a roof over your head?

Would you rather believe in a universal morality that surpasses time and people’s opinions, or no morality at all, where people are free to do whatever they wish, no matter how morally repugnant you find the behavior?

Choose which religion you would like your children to grow up believing: Christianity, Islam, Atheism, or some other religion. Consider carefully the consequences of each. After all, children who grew up Christian became the people who built Western Civilization from virtually nothing but a few remnants of a long-dead civilization.

What Conservatism Looks Like and How it Wins

September 17, 2016 by

The Conservative Movement has been hijacked on numerous occasions. The most significant recent hijacking has been George W. Bush and his presidency, which rose to power claiming conservative core values but ran on something quite different.

Conservatism first needs a definition. American Conservatism, unlike every other form of conservatism throughout the world, is really liberty-focused, or rather rights-focused. At the core of American Conservatism is the acknowledgement of “certain unalienable rights”, God-given and irrevocable. The question of “Why government?” and “How much government?” is answered simply “Enough to protect individual rights, but no more.”

Conservatism thus focuses on moral authority, right and wrong, “should” and “should not”. The moral compass that Conservatism uses is the same used by the Bible. We do not appeal to people’s individual morality but assert that there is a universal morality that we are all subject to, whether we acknowledge it or not. Thus, religion plays a huge role in Conservatism, because at the very center is the fundamental question of what is right and wrong.

The religion that Conservatism relies on is simply this: Christianity, namely, the sort of Christianity that Christians everywhere broadly agree to. Since there is confusion, as many people in America no longer consider themselves Christian, and those who do do not claim to understand it, let me spell out the key doctrines.

  1. God created man and gave him clear commandments, a moral code that defines which behavior is acceptable and which is not.
  2. Man is incompetent and ignores and disobeys God and thus deserves the full punishment of God, because God cannot be arbitrary and must be just.
  3. However, Christ has intervened, taking upon himself God’s punishment, thus providing us a time where we can change from our old behavior and become reborn through Christ.
  4. This process takes time and effort and forgiveness and repentance and respect for each other, which is all Christ really asks us to do: Love one another and forgive one another.
  5. In short, the “new rule” is that we are to respect one another and focus on our own internal struggle between good and evil, and call upon Christ to save us from ourselves, both individually and collectively, because he is powerful to save. And through this process, we gradually become more like Christ, completely obedient to the commandments of God.

Christianity, like any religion, is a broad topic, one that requires attention and study. One cannot master it in this lifetime. We can only taste parts of it, and catch glimpses of the full scope and glory of it. Because of our mortal, flawed condition, we cannot expect to arrive at perfect truth in this life.

If you are the sort that finds any discussion of religion distasteful, I beg you to look inward and ask yourself why. Are you the sort of person who merely finds different religions distasteful? Do you not understand that you have closely held beliefs that can be considered a religion in its own right? Or do you think you are merely intellectually and philosophically and morally superior to others? It doesn’t matter. The very same spirit that makes my religion distasteful to you inhabits all of us. If you cannot control that emotion, that distaste for “other”, then how do you expect to build a society full of people like you?

After all, Christianity boils down to this: mutual respect. I respect your right to choose your own set of beliefs, and all I ask, ultimately, is for you to do the same. If you can manage that, then you have mastered the fundamentals of Christianity, and are well on your way to understanding all of it.

It is unfortunate that I can only touch on the surface of this deep and poignant topic. In my personal life, I have decided that the vast majority of my time should be spent preaching my religion and revealing how deep and poignant it is, and perhaps convincing not a few people to adopt it for themselves, as I find my greatest happiness lies in the practice of it.

Moving on, however, we must now address the question of government. What sort of government should we have, and what sort of government should we not have? In defining something, we can either show what it is or what it is not. By showing what it is, we leave open vast areas of possibilities of what it could also be. But by showing what it is not, we close those areas off and set a fence around it. So my efforts will principally focus on what it is not.

First, a good government does not violate any human rights. That is, it cannot do what any private citizen could not do. For instance, I have no right to break into my neighbor’s house and rummage through his private papers, so the government has no right to do that either. I have no right to steal from my neighbor, so the government has no right to do that also.

I cannot argue that by stealing from my neighbor or spying on him that I am somehow making his life better or securing better rights for him. No, this makes no sense and is never justifiable. Only in the most extreme circumstances and where the most basic human rights are at stake can I begin to justify these things, IE, I hear screaming from my neighbor’s house and I want to protect the life that is threatened. So, too, our government must limit itself to acting like a private citizen in all cases.

This is completely contrary to what almost all non-Conservatives believe government to be. On the one hand, many people believe government has powers that the people do not, and do not understand why this is a problem. The reason it is a problem is because these powers are the power to injure and limit our rights, and when the government has unlimited powers, the people have no rights at all, but are no better than slaves or serfs to it On the other hand, many people believe government should not have the power the people themselves have, and should limit itself even beyond the limit I described above. This is nonsense, since the government is made up of people. It is trivial to show to this group of people that as long as government is made of people, it can do what people can do. This argument destroys any proposal for exceptionally weak governments, such as anarchy.

There are a few important areas where we need to focus to understand how we are abusing this basic concept of government and why we allow government to get away with it. Let’s start with the topic of national defense, or in other words, war.

The power to wage war is simply the power of the people to use violence to secure their right to life and property. When our rights are threatened, we can either stand back and allow them to be violated passively (thus asserting we have no rights at all) or we must violently resist. If we do not violently resist threats to our right, or at least leave such an option on the table, then we do not truly believe we have those rights in the first place. Thus, since we are willing to use violence to secure our rights, we can collectively bring that willingness together to buy up armies and navies and wage war on those people across the world who threaten our rights.

However, once they acquiesce to our demands, we no longer have the right to wage war on them. That is, as long as we believe they are no threat, we have no right to do any violence to them.

The power to wage war is, thus, a binary power. Either we have it, or we don’t. If we have it, we should use it, aggressively, unapologetically, forcefully, and quickly. If we don’t, then we should not.

Today’s America doesn’t operate this way. We are afraid of declaring wars and we are afraid of declaring peace. We believe we can manage people who want to kill us. We believe we can have peace with people who are doing us violence. We must desist from these foolish notions, believe people mean what they say, and take action accordingly. We must take every threat, every whisper of a threat, seriously, and pursue the threat until it is no longer a threat. We must use every option we have available to quickly and efficiently dispose of that threat.

The consequences of such a system is that we will know every day whether we are at war and with whom, or whether we are at peace. If at war, we collectively pool our efforts and pursue that threat vigorously, but if at peace, we rest and relax and build our homes and communities instead. We do not let threats grow to Cold War-levels, and we do not allow terrorists to roam free. We certainly don’t allow an entire segment of a popular religion to preach violence against us.

Let’s look at another topic, how to handle poverty. There are those who believe that the poor are perfectly incapable of managing themselves. They believe there is some substantial difference between the rich and the poor, such that the poor can never become rich (and vice-versa). It is this belief that compels them to steal from the rich and distribute it to the poor, in some misguided belief that by so doing, the rich and poor will become equal.

It should be plain to anyone why stealing is wrong, and why it is important to acknowledge the right to property. While I totally agree that the rich should share their resources with the poor so that the poor is no longer poor, I do not agree that stealing their resources is right, let alone effective. A government should not distribute wealth. After all, a government cannot do that which a private citizen cannot do.

Policing is another topic. The police do not exist to protect the public. The fact that there are people who still believe this saddens me greatly. You are required to protect yourself, your home, your family, your friends and neighbors. No one else can do that for you. The police are government agents they use to punish criminals. At best, really, they are agents of the court to bring the guilty to justice. While the police are helpful and friendly and kind, and will fetch cats out of trees and such, that is not their job. They do not appear until a crime has been committed, and they are not charged with preventing crime, just punishing it. If you expect the police to do more than private citizens, you misunderstand the role of the police.

I am not advocating vigilantism. Vigilantism is when people operate outside the appointed criminal justice system. I am simply advocating you to be your own security guard or to hire someone to do it for you. When a crime has been committed, work with the police and the courts to see that justice is done. But until a crime is committed, secure yourself to minimize the chance that the crime will be done to you.

The final topic I wish to address is how Conservatism can become the dominant political movement in America. I see a rather simple approach.

To the people, we will tell them how they have rights and they need to protect those rights and stand up to government overreach. We will explain how government has wronged them by abusing their rights. We will use the courts to extract penalties from the government for the people. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, as long as judges acknowledge even the slightest degree of regard for individual rights, we will take advantage of that to secure them all.

To the rich, we will tell them how we will protect their wealth and help them secure more. The crony capitalist will find no friend in us, as we will advocate ending the close relationship of government power and economic power. However, for ever crony capitalist, there are hundreds of capitalists who wish to “eat their lunch” by building a better company. We will appeal to the underdogs and show them how conservatism will level the playing field and allow them to compete in open competition against the most powerful companies. Yes, this will make big corporations our eternal enemies, but it will make the second largest company on down all our allies. There are more of them and they have more money.

To the aristocrat, those who obtain their power by technical excellence or moral authority, we will show how Conservatism protects and propels them and their art. We want to build a system based on ability, not relationships. We respect all people’s rights, including the right to compete and the right to question tradition.

To the government bureaucrat, we really don’t have much appeal at all. When conservatives are elected, then their first order of business should be driving government bureaucrats into the private sector. As long as government is small and limited, bureaucrats shouldn’t have much power anyway. As long as they do, however, they will be our principal target. It will be “us” versus “them”, and in any society, there are always more of us.

Me vs. the Alt Right

September 10, 2016 by

I do not consider myself a part of the alt-right. There are a lot of issues where I agree with them, issues where I disagree with republicans for the most part. There are issuers where I disagree with them.

I’d like to consider myself the paragon of conservatism, but I know that I am not. My ideas are my own, they are unique to me, and there is no political philosophy that agrees with it 100% except for my own.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Trump isn’t a conservative, he isn’t a part of the alt-right, but I support him and hope he wins and hope he enacts most or all of the reforms he has talked about.

Let’s begin.

Politics is not what it seems. The word itself comes from the word in Greek for cities, which also is the root of the word “polite”. Politics is about power, state power, the power to kill and imprison and fine and such.

People sometimes equate things like power and money and such with evil. While it is true, that in virtually every instance that an individual has accumulated these things, they abuse them and turn them for evil, it is not true that these things are themselves evil, or that we should not try to obtain them. No, we all should be seeking for power and money. The question is how we should go about doing it, and what we should do with it once we have it. That, I think, is the fundamental question of politics. Again:

  • How do you obtain power?
  • How do you exercise it?

Without obtaining power, it is pointless to discuss how you intend to use it. In no case in the history of the world have people gladly handed over power because someone else thought they knew better how to use it. Only when people believe their ideas so strongly that they are willing to take it have they obtained it.

I don’t think it’s worth discussing how to keep power, because that is simply an exercise in continuing to accumulate power. Over time, power is lost, and if it isn’t recovered, then power will diminish.

It’s disconcerting to most to talk first about how to obtain power rather than what you intend to do with it, but that’s where the political discussion must begin.

In order to obtain power, there are a number of ways to do it. I like to classify it in these three classes:

  • Bureaucracy. These people are already in power and have the stamp of approval of the existing government.
  • Plutocracy. These people are wealthy and can buy pretty much anything they want, including power.
  • Aristocracy. These people have certain virtues, either knowledge of the sciences or wisdom or religious authority, and so have power by force of their arguments.

Note on the last word, aristocracy: We fallaciously associate this with the corruption of the nobles in Europe. In reality, Europe survived and thrived by giving power to those who were good at what they did. Even today, in the United Kingdom, people who excel in their discipline are knighted. We made a decision as a country not to label our aristocracy with government titles, but that doesn’t mean they exist.

So political power really begins with these three groups. If you can convince them to support you, you can convince everyone else.

Once you have power, of course, there is the question of how you intend to use it. Usually, these two things go hand-in-hand. After all, the vast majority of political philosophies really never move past the first question. They accumulate power for the purpose of accumulating power.

Now, let’s talk, in that framework, about what my political philosophy is versus the alt-right’s political philosophy.

First, I believe that power should be as widely distributed as possible. The power to make a decision should rest solely on the person or people whom that decision would affect. If you are not in the circle of influence, you should not be making the choice.

In the conservative philosophy, this means giving political power to the people. People tend to like this idea, since it empowers them. But really, there are only a certain kind of people that would obtain this power and exercise it well. If you were to ask me honestly, I would say that universal suffrage, the idea that everyone should get a vote, is not a good idea. Only those people who are affected should get a vote.

For the most part, that is the landowners in the United States. That is also the citizens, the people who have not only been raised in our society, but have sworn an oath to protect and preserve it. That’s right. I believe that every voter in the United States should swear an oath that they intend to use their power to protect themselves, their family, their community, and the country. Should any citizen betray that, they should be punished, up to and including the stripping of their citizenship.

Ancient Greeks gave citizenship to a only a select few. These people were wealthy enough that they could take the time to debate the important issues and become acquainted with them. When they cast a vote, it was not done in ignorance or lightly.

But this is only the beginning. People who have money should be given power that goes along with that money, or rather, should be free to use their money as they like. This is certainly appealing to the wealthy. “Vote for me”, I’d say, “And I’ll remove every roadblock to accessing the full potential of your wealth.”

The aristocrats should also favor my political philosophy, because I would leave technical decisions for them to decide. “Vote for me,” I’d say, “And I’ll put you on committees and boards and councils to enact the policies and rules that are best for your disciplines.”

The one constituency that would never vote for me would be the bureaucrats. The problem is that the way I empower the wealthy and the educated and virtuous is I would disempower the bureaucrats. “Vote for me,” I’d say, “And you’ll have to find a different job.”

Among this system would be in place certain rules, the respect for basic rights. Rights would be determined based on what people should do, rather than what they want to do. Also, I would make sure rights never conflicted one with another.

A government run according to my political philosophy would look like this.

  • A federal government, concerned only with interstate interactions and warfare.
  • Several (numerous) state governments, probably one per million (or about 350 in today’s population), concerned with laws regulating the people in their state and taxes, if any.
  • Each state government would be further broken down into independent counties and cities and towns.

Gone would be the federal government, the vast majority of it! No more pension checks, no more social security, no more medicare, no more EPA or FDA or anything like it. The only budgets in the federal government would be for national defense, immigration, and commerce.

For the most part, people would rely on themselves. There would be no social safety net except that which they provide themselves.

When it comes to international relations, the only questions we should consider is how much trade or whether we should go to war. When a country declares war on us, or behaves as if they had declared war, then we would wage a brutal and short war where we would completely destroy their economy. Afterwards, we would rebuild their economy, but they would no longer be independent of us. They would enter our country as a territory, subject to our laws and our government. When they are able to organize themselves sufficiently, and demonstrate sufficient American values, then we would consider allowing them to become (one or more) states within our boundaries.

This policy of absolute war followed by absolute submission would give every country pause before taking any aggressive stance against us. Those foolish enough to engage us in war would quickly find they regret their decision.

This brings me to a second point of my political philosophy: When it comes to our rights, there is simply no room for compromise. We must be willing to fight to the death for our rights. And by death, I don’t mean our death: I mean the death of our enemies. Those who mean us ill, they deserve no forgiveness or mercy until they submit and vow never to raise their arms against us ever again. And even then, we cannot tolerate the chance the next generation would do the same, and so we would take over the role of governing their country and ensure the next generation was raised as American.

The alt-right’s political movement isn’t based on a philosophical exercise of abstract rights and justice. Instead, they seem to play on our natural tendency to form tribes and exploit our tribal feelings to obtain power. Once they obtain power, who knows what they will do with it except persecute those who are not members of our tribe. It is sad to report that tribal politics leads to constant warfare. When we fight people because they are different from us, the fighting only ends when they are gone or they assimilate.

Playing on this emotion in our psyche is good since it brings political power, but only inasmuch as once power is obtained, it can be tempered. I don’t mind, as a conservative, using identity politics to win elections. I do mind when that becomes our only message. Why would plutocrats or aristocrats support a tribal political philosophy? To both of these groups, they will meet it with suspicion, since neither the aristocrats or plutocrats are really part of the tribe. While the bureaucrats might like it, there too they will realize that it isn’t long before the torches and pitchforks are coming for them.

At least with a philosophy based on morality and rights and justice you can argue why hanging your neck from the nearest tree isn’t morally sound or a respect of individual rights, and reflect that back on your antagonizers. To the tribally minded, all you can hope is to show them that you are one of them.

The alt-right, I believe, will never take political power because they will never get the backing of the plutocrats or the aristocrats. At best, they can hope to be used by another political philosophy to their own ends, and then hijack that once they have obtained power.

Finally, a word on Donald Trump. To me, he is really an idiot. He doesn’t seem to be educated at all on the complexities of real power. As a plutocrat, he is used to buying advisors and their advice, but when it comes to political power, you can never trust the person feeding you advice. You must be able to navigate it on your own. Donald Trump may be being played by the alt right, who knows? I doubt, however, that Trump will like it much when he realizes what has been done. Donald Trump is dangerous to any political philosophy because once he “gets it”, he is going to use his power for his own purposes.

It’s not fair to say that Donald Trump agrees with me or with the alt right or with conservatives in general.

Now, a prediction, if I may indulge: Donald Trump wins, and Donald Trump does nothing. Nothing substantial changes. The movement that propelled Donald Trump into office disappears over time. Or, if you like, Hillary Clinton wins, and she does nothing different. I believe that the state of American politics today, the bureaucracy runs the show. The aristocrats and the plutocrats are barely acknowledged. That’s not to say tomorrow will bring something new. I believe one day Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos will realize the power they hold and call the bluff of the bureaucrats. I see signs that that is in the making now. If Hillary wins, it will be because of the plutocrats, and they will hold her accountable for it and let her know it every day. And if she doesn’t act according to their wishes, you’ll find their money going elsewhere.

Why “Theistic Evolution” is Problematic

September 9, 2016 by

I sometimes see someone write something like the following on the internet:

I believe God used evolution to make all the animals and humans.

I wonder what someone could possibly mean by a statement like that.

In one sense, maybe they mean God put certain rules in place in the universe that made evolution inevitable. If this is what they believe, then we can do scientific investigation and we can figure out if that is true or false, starting with the question, “Do the laws of the universe imply evolution?” (Spoiler alert: I say they do not. But we can discuss that later.)

On another sense, maybe they mean God took the laws of the universe, sprinkled some supernatural intervention, and then made all the animals and humans. So, they think evolution works, but God had to give it a kick in the butt to get it going in the right direction, and occasionally tune it.

It’s this second theory that I have a problem with. Not because it’s not a good idea, but because it is impossible to test. It is no longer science. It is simply religion. And like all religious discussions, they end when someone says, “That’s what I believe.” With science, we can say, “I’ll prove you wrong!” but if someone believes something, we can only smile and accept them, or nail them to a cross.

The thing that really bothers me about this second idea is it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of science. It reveals they do not understand what science really is and how it really works.

Renee Descartes is considered as the philosophical grandfather of modern science. The idea that really gave rise to modern science, that he can take responsibility for, is simply this: There is a material universe, the universe in which we live, where there are certain laws that govern all behavior in that universe. God exists outside of this universe.”

By taking God out of the material universe, we introduce something new that wasn’t there before: predictability. Now we can make predictions and test them. We can theorize about the laws, and we can see which ones are right and which ones are wrong.

If God is in the material universe, then we have a problem. An omnipotent being could literally do anything. Any omniscient being will know everything. And an intelligent being defies logic and reason. With someone like that running around, who knows what will happen next?

Now, I believe that sometimes God interacts with the material universe. We call those miracles. However, if you’re running an experiment, and God performs a miracle in the middle of it, you know what you have to do? You have to throw the experiment away and start again. I mean, if your chemical reaction requires water and God changes it to wine, what can you possibly do but start again?

So, to say that God manipulated evolution is to say evolution is not science. You accomplish exactly the opposite of what you wanted to do. And you show a fundamental lack of understanding of the most key concepts in science.

This is why we have to talk about God in our schools. You can’t ignore an important topic like this and hope that the students will treat it responsibly. If you accept God and begin the process of classifying him, you get a clearer picture of all the things that are not God in our lives, and you understand how you can be religious and still be a good scientist.

Pondering the Atonement, Understanding Grief

September 8, 2016 by

Let me start by saying I am not a therapist, and I haven’t studied this topic scientifically at all. That said, I have a bit of anecdotal evidence and I think what I have is worth sharing.

One of the things that I used to believe about Christ is that he took sin and he threw it away. I believed that Christ could wiggle his nose and all my sins would disappear and I could live as a perfect man on the earth. And if I ever committed a sin again, it must be because I wasn’t believing enough or I didn’t have enough faith.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize the childishness of my beliefs.

This is what I believe now.

We live in a universe of opposites. It is the fact that there is an opposition that makes a thing exist at all. After all, if there were no evil, and all were good, we wouldn’t call anything good anymore. It would just be. A trivial example: “Yum, that’s good spaghetti” would become “Yum, that’s spaghetti.”

You really need to ponder this for a long time and understand that things are defined not by what they are, but what they are not. When you say “square”, for instance, we think we are saying “all shapes with four sides that are parallel and equal length” but really, you are saying “all those shapes but those without four sides or that are not parallel or that are not equal length.”

Logically speaking, the statements “A” and “not not A” are equivalent. When two statements are equivalent, we often think of the one side and think we understand it all, but really, we need to understand the other side before we truly grasp what is being said.

In this universe of opposites, one of the opposites is good and evil. Good exists because of evil. If it were not for evil, good couldn’t exist. We simply cannot be good unless we are evil, or have evil. Or, put another way “Good Jonathan” and “Evil Jonathan” exist. “Jonathan” is the superposition of both of them. If you take away “Evil Jonathan”, then the thing called “Jonathan” is a subset of what it was. (This is a reference to quantum mechanics that I’m afraid only physicists will get.)

The next step in my understanding came as I pondered what Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. I summarize this as he took upon him all the sins of the world, and he descended below all things. Keep in mind, when I’m talking about “sin” in this context, I’m talking about all the opposite things we don’t like and don’t want but are stuck with. When I’m talking about “below”, I’m saying he went the opposite direction we all want to go.

This is a key point now. Christ didn’t throw away sins. He didn’t destroy sin. He didn’t eliminate it. He conquered it. He was like Julius Caesar, marching into the land that sin controlled. He did battle with it, but he didn’t kill it. Then he tied a chain around its neck and made it part of his domain.

We often picture hell as that underworld where Satan reigns supreme. If we think of the atonement in this way, that’s not at all what hell looks like now. What I imagine happened is Christ drove himself straight down into hell, then fought hordes of demons and devils until he came to the big man himself. Then, having defeated (not killed) them, he makes them sign a treaty whereby they get to continue to exist but they have to report to him.

Please keep things in perspective here. I am trying to use metaphor to get a very complicated idea across. I am not trying to trivialize the atonement or how it worked, but understand it. The way Christ would do battle, if he fought at all, is different than how we would do battle. The end result is the same, however: Hell now reports to Christ.

I see now Christ as not the guy who destroyed sin but the guy who took sin and made it part of himself but put it under control. Christ the being is composed of Good Christ and Evil Christ, and the Good Christ defeated and conquered and enslaved, but not killed, the Evil Christ.

This has a lot of hope for me. Whether I am Good Jonathan or Evil Jonathan, it kind of doesn’t matter. I belong to Christ. And if I want to embrace Good Jonathan, then I must focus on defeating, not destroying, Bad Jonathan.

Now, Bad Jonathan is not just the part of me that wants to do bad things, but the part of me that feels grief and pain and that has a sore back and that complains loudly when he has to eat broccoli. Bad Jonathan are all those aspects of my nature that I wish I didn’t have. It’s those things we want to run away from.

But what did Christ do? He ran toward it. He embraced it. He conquered it. Then, together, he rose above everything else, bringing it along with him.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of grief recently. I think bad thoughts about what might happen to my parents and their physical condition. I prematurely mourn their deaths now that it seems so much closer today than last week. But I am not trying to run from my grief anymore. I set a place for it at the table. I give it room in my bed. I take a shower with it. I take it with me to work and I let it sit in my office chair and type on my keyboard.

Grief isn’t bad. He’s not trying to kill me. He’s there to remind me that everything is not happiness all the time. When I try to run from him, that’s when he catches up to me and does really bad things. But if I embrace him, even love him, then I find it is tolerable.

I think a large part of this life is to teach us that these bad things aren’t as bad as we think they are. We are to learn that we can conquer them, control them, incorporate them safely into our essence and our being. It’s ok to see yourselves as fundamentally flawed and bad people, because when you embrace that, you also embrace the good and the perfect.

I used to hope one day Christ would wiggle his nose and get rid of all the things I don’t want in my life. But now that I see this world is full of colors unimaginable emotionally, I don’t mind anymore. I welcome the bad things into my life with the good. I have room for them. I let them stay, even when I wish they would go home.

Sometimes I lay down at night, tired and worn out and too sad to speak. I water my pillow as David did. But when the sun comes up and my strength returns, and I bite into that morning breakfast, something else comes into me: happiness.

In short, happiness is not the absence of sadness. Good is not the absence of evil. These things are opposite sides of the same coin. If we want happiness, we must also embrace sadness. And if we want good, we must accept evil as well.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about going out and trying to do bad things or getting yourself worked up about things that aren’t really a danger. No one should ever eat poison! I am saying that we find ourselves with poison in our system, and the way to fix that is to digest the poison and learn to live with it.

LDS Doctrine and Evolution

September 8, 2016 by

I want to speak for my perspective on the Theory of Evolution and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not a spokesman for the church. I don’t pretend that there is any official pronouncement of the official stance of the church. I am stating my perception of the official stance.

If you want the official stance, you can go visit http://lds.org/ and look it up for yourself. My summary is that it doesn’t matter. Believe what you want.

Let me tell you the few things that are important and that we do teach and that do matter.

There is a God. God created Man. Adam as the first man. All living humans on planet earth are descendants of Adam.

That’s pretty much it.

There is nothing about how God created Man. We have in front of us 3 accounts in the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham (the latter two are in the Pearl of Great Price.) If you are an endowed member, you get a 4th account in the temple endowment ceremony. (Feel free to attend often and memorize what is said.) But in none of these accounts are any scientific statements made that we can test. I can think of ten thousand ways that each of the statements can conform to what we observe in nature.

I believe our generation is in the dark in this topic. This is partly due to the fact that we aren’t ready for the truth, and partly due to the fact that if we knew, the Plan of Salvation might be spoiled.

Why might we not be ready for the truth? One of the doctrines we teach is that God judges us based on what we know. If we are ignorant of a law, we can’t be expected to obey it. And so, if we are ignorant of the creation (which we are), we can’t be expected to believe it, and disbelief cannot be counted as a sin. Perhaps God has the truth ready to give us, but because so few of us would accept it, he doesn’t give it to use for fear of our rejection of it. I have found this to be universally the case. God gives us knowledge line upon line, precept upon precept. He gives us a little, expects us to conform, and then gives us some more, bit by bit. Within the church, each member is given a certain amount of knowledge which they are required to live by. This knowledge comes directly from God through the Spirit, so it’s not like President Monson has any say in who gets what. So if we’re not ready to accept it, he probably won’t give it to us, because he doesn’t want to force us into a position where we would be disobedient and rebellious.

I don’t know why we might not be ready. I will tell you this: The subject of science is so horribly political and vindictive that there are entire branches of science I treat with similar contempt to witchcraft. Maybe the political pressure and retaliation would be more than the church and its members could bear. I don’t know. It’s just a possibility.

Why would revealing the truth spoil the plan of salvation? I’ve answered part of this with the previous answer, but let me elaborate on a separate point. The point of earth-life is not to make good choices and show God how righteous you are.

On the one hand, we really can’t do anything well. We can’t even understand what it would mean to be good. Case in point: There are a lot of things God and Christ did in the past that we still question and think to be morally questionable. In short, we are literally incapable of being good. But suppose we were good. If we ever do anything right, God rewards us, often with much more than we deserve. And so we would end up in greater debt even if we did well.

These two points combined point to the fact that if you intend to impress God with your righteousness, you’re going to be very disappointed.

The point of earth-life, as God has repeatedly explained in scriptures and through the living prophets and apostles, is to live by faith. Faith is a key principle in LDS theology that is at the heart of everything we are and do. To us, faith is belief plus action. Or rather, action according to correct beliefs. When we hear something, we can choose to reject it or believe it. If we believe it, that is not enough. We must act according to it.

Faith in what? Faith in Jesus Christ. That is the real test: Will you live by faith in Jesus Christ?

If God were to give all the answers, and show the world what Jesus Christ has done, is doing, and will do for the world, then there would be no more need of faith. We would know that Christ has our best interests at heart, and we would happily comply with everything he asks us to do. It’s only because there are great big question marks surrounding who Christ really is and what he has done and is doing and will do that we get to test our faith.

So that’s the bottom line. The church doesn’t have “no position” on evolution, they just say, “You can believe what you like.” The scriptures don’t give us anything to run on scientifically, thus, no one can say they “know” how the world was created or where the animals and humans came from.

That said, when I look at nature, when I honestly evaluate the evidence before me, I conclude that not only was the world created by miraculous means, but there was a world-wide flood (evidence is literally everywhere!) and that it’s clear the Theory of Evolution is pseudo-science. Now, I can’t explain how God did it or what processes he used, but I can tell you what processes he didn’t use.

If you disagree with me, I’m okay with that and I’m happy to welcome you as a member of the church. We can have discussions, either theological or scientific, about this topic, and I would be more than happy to have you over for dinner to do so, time permitting.

One day, God will tell us everything, and it will all make sense. That day isn’t today, and we’re never going to get the full truth through scientific inquiry. But science is a lot of fun, and it’s useful, and I prefer we do more of it, not less.

What’s the big deal about idols?

August 22, 2016 by

The second of the Ten Commandments seems rather straightforward. On first reading, we might rightly wonder what it has to do with our day. It seems backwards and anachronistic.

First, let’s look at what was likely happening at the time of the people of Israel. Then we’ll look at the commandment in its full glory, and finally, we’ll bring it up to our day.

The people of Israel had just been freed from the kingdom of Egypt. We don’t know a whole lot about Egypt, but we do know that like many societies we find throughout world history, they had set up a caste system of sorts. At the top were the pharaoh and the priests.

The pharaoh wasn’t just a president or king. He was a god, in a very real sense. We know that the pharaoh was just a man dressed up in a funny costume, but to the people of Israel and Egypt, he was something much much more, someone who had to not only be obeyed but adored and worshiped.

The priests set themselves up in a similar position. Although the priests did not claim to be gods themselves, they did claim to speak for the gods and communicate the will of the gods to the people. They were the keepers of their religious traditions and ceremonies. When Moses came and demonstrated the power of God, this was not just a threat to the power of the pharaoh but all of the priests as well. It was a threat to the entire structure of Egyptian society.

Egyptian society doesn’t sound that bad, though. I mean, the religion the priests taught to the people was at least somewhat reasonable. If you live rightly, treat your neighbors with respect and kindness, then when you die, your heart will be measured against a feather and if it is found to be light as a feather, then you can go on to eternal happiness. But if you carry around weight like regret or hatred and such, you are in grave danger.

Of course, this leads to an immediate question: What do you do about those things in your life that try to tear you down? How do you let go? How do you move on? We don’t know what the Egyptian system was, but judging on other societies and cultures, it was probably something along the lines of giving something up or making a donation or doing some extraordinary deed.

Which brings to the center a question: Why? How can making a donation or giving up something or doing an extraordinary deed erase the fact that you’ve done something wrong? Is it all just a giant deception, meant to enrich the pharaoh and his priests and keep them in power? Or does it actually work?

In my previous post, I showed how the God of Israel presented himself to the people of Israel as the Liberator God, and demanded that no other god should be put before him. This sets liberation and freedom as the utmost priority and the purpose of the other nine commandments. This commandment against making and worshiping idols is one of the most important things we need to do to establish our own liberty.

Let’s look at the text of the second commandment to find some insight into why this commandment is so important and how we are to obey it.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The first part talks about making idols. Specifically, the Lord is talking about copying things we might find in heaven or earth, or even under the water. Making these images is not a problem, however. What is a problem is made clear in the second verse. That is, worshiping and serving them.

God explains why this troubles Him, and why it is a problem.

First, God says he is jealous. Really, this word is a mistranslation. The word in Hebrew is “qannah”, which means “possessing sensitive and deep feelings”. God is comparing Himself with anything we can make or copy in this world. He says that he, unlike all those other things, has feelings, deep feelings, and they are very sensitive feelings. A better translation might be “I am a passionate God”.

Then, he says that effects of the sins of the fathers translate down to the third or fourth generations. That is, “Like father, like son”. When we make idols and worship them, our kids will do the same. Another saying is, “Monkey see, monkey do.” One of the problems of worshiping idols is that our children and the people around us will copy us.

Finally, God says that he is merciful if you love him and keep his commandments.

When you read this commandment closely, it seems it is saying much more than “Don’t worship idols.” It is saying, “Look, the things that you are going to end up worshiping are not me. They don’t have emotions and feelings. People are going to copy you. And besides, I am merciful if you simply love me and keep my commandments.”

Let’s get back to the gods and priests of Egypt, and compare the God of Israel with them.

The gods of Egypt:

  • Were statues and ideas that had no emotions.
  • Demanded certain kinds of behavior.
  • Demanded some kind of sacrifice or offering if that behavior wasn’t met.

The God of Israel:

  • Actually cared.
  • Didn’t want to model bad behavior for the children of Israel.
  • Said that as long as you love me and keep the commandments, he will forgive those who are in trouble.

This is a striking comparison.

Statues and idols that men set up as gods don’t really care about people. They are distant and passionless. The God of Israel really cares and feels emotions.

The gods of Egypt had an arbitrary set of requirements. The God of Israel merely wanted to have the children of Israel grow up in freedom and liberty rather than revert back to bondage.

The gods of Egypt demanded sacrifice and tribute for past sins. The God of Israel simply wants obedience and love, and is merciful, looking forward to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

What does this have to do with our day? Simply put, we are making idols every day. We make idols of things we create. We make idols of things we imagine. We make idols of other people. In order to understand what an idol is, you need to understand what worship is. Worship is simply reverence or regard, those things you think are very important and worthy of contemplating or celebrating.

When we praise logic and reason and science, we are worshiping it. When we praise love and kindness, we are worshiping it. When we set someone up as a superhuman, we are worshiping him. We all have a natural tendency to worship things and people rather than the True and Living God. We need to watch ourselves and keep things in focus.

Remind yourself: Does the thing you honor and revere have emotions? Do they know you and care about you? Are they interested in seeing your children and grand children and great grand children grow up in freedom and liberty? What do they ask of us? What happens when we don’t conform, how do they ask us to get back into their good graces?

Take, for instance, science. Science doesn’t care about us. Science doesn’t care about our kids. Science doesn’t even recognize liberty, let alone try to free us. Science demands exactness and perfection, and brutally condemns error and mistakes without even a hint of mercy. If we cross science, what can we possibly do to regain its regard? Nothing.

Or love. Love doesn’t care about us. Love doesn’t care about our kids. It’s a feeling that has no feeling. Love doesn’t recognize liberty. What does love demand? Our unceasing attention and devotion. And what if we cross love? There is little hope of ever gaining back its trust, and then only if we promise to sacrifice our entire selves for it.

You can do this exercise for everything. Does President Obama deserve our worship, or Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton? What of the Hollywood celebrities? Or do we put Einstein or Newton or Feynman on that golden altar of reverence and respect? What about people like Martin Luther King, Jr.? What are we expected to do if we honor them, and what happens if we make a mistake in our devotion? What does it take to get back in good standing?

The bottom line is this. If you are going to worship something (and we all are), then we had better only worship a God who has passions, who cares about our great grand children, who liberates us, and who promises to forgive us for the low, low price of love and obedience going forward. There is no easier god to serve than the God of Israel, and there is no more rewarding and caring God than Him either.

By worshiping the True and Living God, we fill the void of worship so that other things can’t consume it. The next few commandments deal with ways to keep the God of Israel in the forefront of our thoughts, and give us mental markers to determine where we are at and where we need to go.

Commandment Numero Uno: Not what you think

August 16, 2016 by

Most people, when they consider the Ten Commandments, start in the middle with, “Don’t kill”, “Don’t steal”, etc…

They also think Moses gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel on tablets of stone. While true, that was not the first time the children of Israel heard the commandments.

In Exodus 19, the chapter before Exodus 20, which contains the Ten Commandments, the record states that God commanded Moses to purify the people of Israel and bring them to Mount Sinai. The people did so, and Moses went up to the mountain to speak with the Lord before coming down again to face the people. At this point, the Lord God spoke with his own voice to the people of Israel, giving them the Ten Commandments.

Imagine that! We often think Moses acted as an intermediary between God and the people, but here we see that God gave his law first directly to the people, in their own ears, so they could hear his voice. At the end, the people rejected God and told Moses they were too scared to deal with Him. They would rather have Moses be their communicator than God.

This is the sort of being God is. He is infinitely powerful. But He is trying to reach us. He wants to speak to us with His own voice directly into our very souls. But how do we treat God? We send Him away, and want someone else to bear that burden. We don’t want to be in contact with Him.

Nevertheless, the awful reality of God is reality. It is only awful when we refuse to accept it. The moment we accept God for what He is and what He wants to do, we can see clearly and act properly.

God’s first message to the people of Israel could’ve been “You Idiots!” The people of Israel, up to that point, had complained and whined and rejected pretty much everything God did for them. The moment he would give them one thing, they would whine for something else.

Or perhaps God could’ve said, “Look how powerful I am! I created the heavens and the earth! I rule over everything!”

That’s not what he said, and that’s not what we should remember God for.

Instead, he said:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Think of that! This is a God who wants to be remembered as a great liberator. He took us out of bondage and slavery, and brought us out so we can be free. I hope that rather than remembering God as the Creator God, or the Destroyer God, or the God of Justice or even the God of Mercy and Love and Kindness, we remember that he is the Liberator God. His first act with us was to grant us our free will. We have the power to choose between good and evil. It is our choice and our choice alone, and he has already moved heaven and earth to ensure we all get that choice.

If there is a reason why God is distant, it is because we want Him to be. He will not come where He is not invited. He will not act unless He is asked.

And so, in that context, a Divine Being of Supreme Power and Omnipotence, speaking directly to His people “I liberated you”, this is the first commandment:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The utter sublimity of this commandment cannot be exaggerated. After pondering on it for decades, I still feel like I have a lot to learn. Let me share some of my insights.

First, what god could possibly be greater than a Liberator God? Can there be any greater act than saving us from ourselves? Can there be anything more meaningful? Other cultures and religions talk of gods who created things and gave birth to mankind and did amazing things and such, but really, why should anyone care about any of that? It is the gods who saved people that give us reason to pay attention and worship. Only that sort of god has any meaning and any relevance in our lives.

Next, why would we want to place anything in front of that aspect of God? Think for a moment with me. Suppose you are an atheist and you believe that gods are things we invent for whatever reason and aren’t real. OK, let’s invent a god. Let’s make it a really, really good god, something that we would actually want people to admire and worship and honor and respect and model. Can anything be better than liberty, a god who grants liberty and turns slavery into freedom? This is, after all, what I think most people buy into atheism for: They think they are being freed from the shackles of misinformation and tradition by adopting no gods at all. In a way, aren’t all atheists really worshipers of the God of Liberty? Isn’t that the one force of nature they really want to connect to?

And then there’s this: Suppose you had a thousand different gods to choose from. What would you be like if you voluntarily chose something else besides the liberty god as the supreme god? I think there are some things we rightfully rule as right out: death, wealth, pleasure. But what about love? Can love supersede liberty? We often watch the tragedies of people who fell in love and became slaves to it, and we silently wish they would break free and instead live their own lives rather than let someone else control theirs. It’s pretty trivial to show how everything is really less important than liberty. As Americans, we rightfully tout freedom, liberty, individual rights and such as what makes us better than anyone else in the world. I mean, England has a queen. Is that really better than liberty?

But there’s this, too. Sometimes, people become gods in our own minds. We mock the Romans for allowing them to think of their Caesars as gods, but do we not also mock people who foolishly put their trust in Napoleon or Hitler or Stalin? If there’s going to be a god we all worship, let it not be any one of us! It seems the moment we place someone on that pedestal, we’re soon going to find our liberty lacking. One of the most serious complaints I had against Barack Obama in 2008 was that people were setting him up as some sort of savior when he had no power to save. What is going to happen when they finally realize they have misplaced their trust? I similarly feel sorry for those who put their trust in any politician or public figure.

Let me summarize:

  • The most important aspect of God in our lives is the fact that he liberates us.
  • There is no more important aspect of anything that is superior to liberty.
  • We certainly don’t want to put any person ahead of that aspect.

This is what God is truly asking. He’s not asking us to worship God. He is saying, “Don’t put things in front of me” and by “me” he means “that Thing that saved you from slavery”. So he’s saying, “Don’t put things ahead of your liberty”.

The first commandment is definitely not, “Worship me!” It’s simply this: Don’t worship anything more than your liberator and your liberty. Those are the most important things, and you need to hold on to those things jealously.

The Ten Commandments are not a recipe for restriction and pain. That’s not the point, and that’s not the effect. It is a recipe for liberty, and preserving liberty, and gaining liberty. If libertarians could agree on what key behaviors would lead to maximum liberty, it would be the Ten Commandments. If atheists could agree on what is wrong with religion, they would write the Ten Commandments to prevent us from doing those bad things.

This is the message God chose to share with the people of Israel. This is the preface to the Ten Commandments and this is the first commandment, the most important of them all.

I freed you. Don’t let anything get in front of that.

Need I say more?

PS. I should add one note: The people of Israel rejected this God. How often do we see people, in the very moment we work a miracle in their lives such that they become free for the first time, that they turn back to their bondage? This is the sad state of humanity, and something we must continually remember. Rather than mock the Israelites, why don’t we recognize how we are doing that to ourselves? How we jeopardize our own liberty by our own actions, and squander the precious gift of liberty we have been given by forces seen or unseen?

A Bible Renaissance

August 12, 2016 by

The Renaissance is widely touted as the birth of our modern era. It was in this era that scholars and scientists appeared, and art flourished and our civilization really began. Or so we were told.

What we’re forgetting is that the Renaissance wasn’t a new thing: It was literally a rebirth, a birth of something old so long forgotten that it felt new again. The Renaissance was a rediscovery of certain truths that had been forgotten, hidden away in dusty books that only a few people used to have access to. The Renaissance started with the Bible, specifically, the Bible becoming available to the people for the first time in a very, very long time.

As we watch Western Civilization collapse (and we can see it collapsing in slow motion, if we simply open our eyes), we rightly wonder: Where did we go wrong? Can we fix what is broken? Or must we start something new?

In my mind, we can trace the roots of our destruction to the abandonment of our foundation. We can fix what is broken by restoring that foundation. And what we must do will feel new to a lot of people, but is really something very, very old.

As the title suggests, I believe that the key to a future renaissance is the Bible. As a culture, we have forgotten about this book. We have forgotten what it says. We have forgotten what it means. We have forgotten why it is so important and why it is the key to our past success. And in forgetting, we wonder how they did it.

The Bible can become the foundation on which we build society. We don’t need a government program or witch hunts or anything like that to make it happen. The formula is really simple.

Step one is YOU read the Bible, cover to cover. If you’ve done it before, then it’s time to do it again. And when I say read, I don’t mean mindlessly repeating the words on the page in your mind, but absorbing their meaning deep into your soul. Let the stories echo in your heart and mind. Let the words guide you and direct you.

Step two is reading the Bible with your family. Teach your spouse, your children, your parents the words in that book. Teach them the stories and the parables and the moral messages.

Step three is sharing the Bible with others. This means taking the stories outside of your bedroom or study and churches into the community, into your workplace, into your social circles. In sharing the Bible, encourage people to read it for themselves.

The Bible’s story and message is one of profound love and respect. It is a message of peace. It teaches us how we can juggle the facts of justice and mercy. Justice demands we behave a certain way to obtain promised rewards. Mercy gives us the benefit of a doubt and lets us recover from our inevitable mistakes. It shows us why and how we can love those different from ourselves, and treat them with respect and at the same time, secure our own blessings of liberty and happiness regardless of how they choose to behave.

The Bible tells us the principle struggle is fought within our own hearts, and that everything outside of us is really a reflection of what is inside of us. It teaches us to focus on our own state of mind before worrying about others. It teaches us how to find peace in the middle of conflict, how to turn violence into safety, how to turn hate into love.

We can’t retreat from society anymore. There is no escape from it. The Benedict Option is not available for us. We must confront the fact of our state and our society’s state head on and we can only do that with the words found in the Bible.

A word of caution: Beware of those who confuse the simple teachings of the Bible or who try to super-impose their own ideas on top of it. Let the Bible speak for itself, let its words, and not the words of an interpreter, enter your mind and heart. Your mind is just as capable as any Bible scholar’s mind. They are not the gatekeepers to unlocking the message of the Bible.