Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Category: Redeeming Liberty (page 1 of 3)

Violence is not the Answer

Ever since the tragedy of Charlottesville there has been something that has bothered me.

My great concern is not the presence of Neo-Nazis, but the acceptance of aggressive violence as the means to silence other people.

Most of you know that I am a libertarian. Contrary to what most people believe, libertarians are not “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”. As far as my personal preferences go I am fiscally conservative and socially conservative, because I believe that is the best way to live.

Libertarianism isn’t about finding a middle ground between Democrats and Republicans, but about the proper use of violence. As the great libertarian thinker Walter Block states; “Libertarianism is solely a political philosophy. It asks one and only one question: Under what conditions is the use of violence justified? And it gives one and only one answer: Violence can be used only in response, or in reaction to, a prior violation of private property rights.” In other words violence can only be justifiably used in self-defense. This ethic applies to both the State and individuals.

Not only am I a libertarian, but more importantly, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that his followers are to love and pray for their enemies. He forgave those who crucified him. He overcomes, not through violence, but through self-sacrifice. This is the example I am called to model. To follow Jesus means I can’t respond with violence to people I disagree with, even when what they are advocating will harm society in the long run.

For me the idea of non-aggression is not some nice idea, but fundamental to who I am. It is a key part to both my political philosophy and my religious belief. God’s kingdom is not enlarged nor is liberty expanded through violent aggression.

Know this: if you advocate punching Nazis or Communists or White Supremacists simply because of their beliefs you are living in opposition to the way of Jesus and you are an enemy to liberty. Violence is not the answer and that is why I am equally opposed to Neo-Nazis and Antifa, who both advocate its use to promote their political philosophy.

Creating Rights and Losing Liberty

One of the ways law is used in the United States is to level the playing field. Our society believes that everyone should have an equal shot. That means no one should have an unfair advantage over someone else.

Let us overlook, for the moment, the reality that equality is myth. When the State uses law to level the playing field the rights of other people are always damaged.

You cannot create a “new right” for someone without taking away the natural rights of another person.

In the 1994 book The Death of Common Sense Philip Howard gave this illustration:

Handing out rights like land grants has become the preferred method of staking out a place for those who feel disadvantaged. Lawmakers and courts, confronted with evidence of past abuses, scramble over each other to define and take credit for handing out new rights. When refused entry to a movie because his two-year-old son might disturb the other patrons, Rolando Acosta, then deputy commissioner of New York City’s Human Rights Commission, had an easy fix; the commission ruled that banning children was age discrimination.” (p.117)

In creating a new right for Mr. Acosta and his two-year-old son two groups of people had their rights violated.

The first group were the movie goers. These people have the right to peacefully assemble and watch a movie without the distraction of young children. As a father of a almost 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 3-month-old I know how distracting small children can be.

The other group, or person, that had their rights violated was the theater owner. Because he or she owns the theater, they have the right to decide who will be able to use their property. If the theater owner believes that they are providing the public with a valuable service of a child free movie watching experience, it is their right to create such a business.

While this example seems to be such a small thing that happened twenty-years ago, it is the type of incident that we need to be aware of and speak out against.

We need to speak out about such things because:

  1. The implication of such decisions is that the State determines the individual rights that we have. That is not the case. Rights are tied to our existence as people. From my perspective as a Christian, these rights are gifts from God and allow us to pursue the life He created us to live. If the State ultimately decides what is or is not a right, then philosophically we are saying our rights come from the State. Whatever liberty we enjoy is a gift from the government.
  2. Cases like this form the foundation of bigger cases. This case from the 1990s is one of a many different cases that provide the groundwork for the bigger issues we a facing today like Christian bakers being forced to bake wedding cakes for same sex weddings and transgender people using the restroom of their identification. You don’t have the right to a wedding cake and you don’t have a right to use public restrooms. Bakers do have the right to decide who they want to bake cakes for and property owners have the right to determine who will use their restrooms.

As horrible as it sounds, you have the right to discriminate.

We may not look at it as discrimination, but we discriminate every day. We do it when we decide what stores to shop in, the friends we spend time with, who to hire for a job, and what TV shows to watch.

It is true we can petition the government to force a person to do something for us that they do not want to do. But think about this: If we had the State enact a law on our behalf against another person, would that law change how the person felt about us?

Ultimately law doesn’t change what people believe, rather it uses force to get people to behave in a certain way.

Whenever a right is “created” the natural rights of another person are always violated. This is one of the reasons why we have lost our liberty in the United States. We have held up “rights” that are not truly rights and have trampled the natural rights that are ours as free people.

These rights are worth fighting for.

Live as Free People

You and I have certain rights simply because we are people.

In the Christian tradition we believe that these rights are a gift from God. These inalienable rights declare that people are equal.

We are not equal in talent, intelligence, beauty, strength, wealth, privilege, or a number of other variables that set people apart from one another. We are equal in that we have the same right to life, self-determination, and responsibility as everyone else has.

The way this equality should be seen is in how people are treated under the law. It shouldn’t matter who you are, equal protection should be given to everyone.

You and I are free people, but that doesn’t mean that we are able to whatever we want to do. To protect the liberty given to us by God requires living in a certain manner.

Consider the following quote attributed to Samuel Adams:

He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man…The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.

What does a free life look like?

According to Samuel Adams the person who enjoys freedom is the person who lives a virtuous life. This is a crucial thought.

Often when we talk about freedom and liberty the focus is on what we are free to do.

“Is this activity legal?” we ask.

We declare, “It is my life I am free to make my own decisions!”

While it is true that freedom often allows you to make all types of choices, that doesn’t mean that those choices are equally beneficial.

Enjoying the benefits of freedom is not the same preserving freedom.

I believe that the number one reason why people lose their liberty is because of poor choices. Yes, their freedom allows them to make those choices, but those choices end up stealing their freedom.

Should a person be free to use drugs?

Yes!

God has gifted them personal responsibility and free will.

Admitting that a person has the freedom to use drugs is not the same thing as proclaiming  drug use as a positive thing. The addiction and personality change that can accompany drug use, even with alcohol, is a terrible thing.

Addiction is a self created prison that many people cannot escape.

This reminds me of what the apostle Peter wrote.

In 1 Peter 2:16 we read; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (ESV).

Peter taught us that we are to live as free people.  The best way for us to live as free people is to live as servants of God.

I know this idea is counter-intuitive, that true freedom is found in being a servant, but when we obey God, we are not being oppressed by some tyrant. Rather, we are being directed by the Creator of the Universe: the One who knows the best way for people to live.

Ultimately freedom is found by living out God’s design for our lives. The way we enjoy freedom is to be faithful to God’s will for us.

Please understand this: No one can rob us of our freedom.

Even if someone takes over and destroys the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, we are still able to live free lives.

The reason for this is because it is not the government that makes us free.

Freedom is a gift from God. The choices we make, even under an oppressive government, are what enable us to enjoy God’s gift of freedom.

Have hope!

God, in His great wisdom and mercy, placed the control of our lives in our hands.

The choices that we make determine the level of freedom we enjoy. God left it up to us to decide whether or not we will live with freedom. This freedom is not about doing whatever we would like to do. Freedom is ultimately about choosing to live the life God planned for us to live (see Ephesians 2:10).

The ability to be free is discovered in the choices we make. Choose to follow Jesus and enjoy real freedom.

Life is Unfair

life-is-unfair

The stated of goal of most progressives is equality. To them the greatest injustice in the world is for inequality to exist between people. That is why they complain about things such as “white privilege” and discrimination. According to progressives these things point to the rampant injustice that exists in this world.

It is not hard to find inequality in life. For example, what I am paid as a pastor is much more than a pastor serving a small church, even though the smaller church pastor, with fewer volunteers and no assistant, has to put in much more time than I do.

Or consider the fact that often the highest paid player on an NFL team is the quarterback, but his success often depends on players getting paid millions of dollars less.

Then there is the reality that a person born in the United States has a greater privilege and a better chance at success than a person born in Liberia.

Inequality is all around us and comes in different forms. It is a reality of life. Yet, are these things really unjust? Is the inequality that exists in this world evidence of injustice?

Ludwig von Mises wrote:

“If we reach the conclusion that only private ownership of the means of production [capitalism] makes possible the prosperous development of human society, it is clear that this is tantamount to saying that private property is not a privilege of the property owner, but a social institution for the good and benefit of all, even though it may at the same time be especially agreeable and advantageous to some.”(Liberalism: The Classical Tradition; p. 11)

The point I want to draw from the above quote is: “private property is not a privilege of the property owner, but a social institution for the good and benefit of all.” In other words;  Life is unfair, but that doesn’t make life unjust. The reality of private property will make life unfair, but the existence of private property is a benefit to everyone.

In Matthew 20:1-16 we read a parable Jesus told about a vineyard owner. This man was wealthy and owned a large vineyard. This enabled him to hire workers to bring in the harvest.

Now who do you think worked the hardest to bring in the harvest?

Without a doubt it was the workers who were hired for the harvest. They labored during the heat of the day while the owner made numerous trips into town. Though the hired workers worked the hardest, it was the vineyard owner who received the biggest benefit. This reality didn’t make things unjust even though it feels unfair. It was the vineyard owner who risked his wealth, put his land into production, and by doing so he benefited the workers as well as the surrounding community. A benefit they would not have had if the land remained unused.

It is easy to label the unfairness and inequality of the world as injustice, but the truth is that unfairness and inequality are part of life. True injustice is the result of unequal treatment from the law.

An example of injustice is seen in this video:

It is an injustice that it takes the poor 289 days to start a business while it takes the rich less than a week in Peru. Injustice is what happens when government favors one segment of society over another. It is this favoritism in government that God hates and that we should fight against, rather than the unequal distribution of wealth and privelege.

Stop Voting for a King

stop-voting

For the first time in my life I am ready for an election season to be over.

I enjoy politics and therefore I have always enjoyed the discussions that surround elections. In recent years this has less to do with the differences between Democrats and Republicans and more to do with thinking through a libertarian and free market response to the issues. Through this lens it becomes obvious that fundamentally there is little difference between the two parties because they both believe in using the power of the federal government to achieve their agendas.

One of the the things that has turned me off to this election is the Christian defense for Donald Trump. I understand believing that Trump will be better for the United States because he will appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but that doesn't mean you have to defend the indefensible. I wish Christians would stop acting like Trump is God's chosen candidate to preserve the United States and admit that he is an immoral man who MIGHT BE more conservative than the alternative.

Another thing that has me turned off to this election is the media's refusal to shine a light on Hillary Clinton and the effects of her policy positions. It is maddening to me how the media is going out of its way to portray Trump as evil incarnate, but will not even talk about the serious nature of having classified emails on an unsecured server. In my mind that is the least of her crimes, since she has supported policies that have led to the deaths of innocent people in the Middle East. Remember, I do not support Donald Trump, and think he will make a bad president, but the double standard here is glaring.

A third thing that has turned me off to this election is people's acceptance of the power of the presidency. It is mind boggling that the response to many of the agenda items for both major candidates is not; “That is unconstitutional.” We have come to assume that the President of the United States can do all these wonderful (in reality, awful) things. I am certain that every king and emperor of the ancient world would have killed to have the power that is concentrated in the office of President today.

In a recent column for the Rutherford Institute, John Whitehead, wrote about terrifying power of the president.

In recent years, however, American presidents have anointed themselves with the power to wage war, unilaterally kill Americans, torture prisoners, strip citizens of their rights, arrest and detain citizens indefinitely, carry out warrantless spying on Americans, and erect their own secretive, shadow government.These are the powers that will be inherited by the next heir to the throne, and it won’t make a difference whether it’s a President Trump or a President Clinton occupying the Oval Office.

Why are we not rebelling against the very notion of an all powerful president? Why do continue to legitimize it by voting for this office every four years?

Part of the answer is that the natural tendency of people is to be ruled. We would like to believe that the desire of people's hearts is to be free. I don't think that is true. Most people want to be left alone, but they are perfectly content to let someone else make all the decisions.

Another piece of the puzzle is that we like people who use power to accomplish their agendas. If you look at a list of the best presidents, the presidents we are suppose to love, the one thing they all have in common is that they used and expanded the power of the presidency. That is certainly the case for Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, the two presidents that many people see as the greatest presidents in American history. Since history teaches us that presidents have all this power, we have come to accept their use of power without question.

Instead of evaluating presidents based on their use of power we should evaluate them based on their oath of office. We should ask this simple question: “Do they uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States?” If we used that measure, the best president in the history of the United States, according to historian Brion McClanahan, would by John Tyler.

How do we combat this abuse of executive power?

First, Congress needs to take back its constitutional duties. Rather than just following the agenda of the president, the Congress must do its duty to be the starting point of legislation and for declaring war.

Second, the States need to remember that they are not under the Federal Government. The Federal Government has certain enumerated powers that it is responsible for, all other powers are to be retained by the States. One reason for this is because each State has its own local issues and there is rarely a one size fits all answer for the entire country. If that was true for the original 13 States, how much more true is it today with 50 States?

Third, amendments to the Constitution need to be added, not because they will make the Constitution more enforceable, but to remind us of the proper role the Federal Government, particularly the President, has in governing the country.

It is time that we stop electing a king with a term limit and start reducing the power the President and the Federal Government has over our lives. When the election is viewed through this lens it becomes obvious that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or even Gary Johnson is not the right candidate for the job.

This election is lost, but that doesn't mean we should despair. Instead we need to start focusing on our State and Local elections and begin to bring about change at the local level. That is the only way to reduce the power of the Federal Government and return the power to the people.

 

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