Christians and the Grant County School

There is an old arrangement in philosophical arguments, where an “In Principle” argument is followed by an “In Fact” argument. Recently, I discussed the principles of religious freedom in public schools, but now I want to address some points raised making accusations of about alleged attempts to favor one religion in the Grant county school system. I cannot argue what has really happened in these schools, I don’t work for the district, and my son is too little to attend school yet, but I can demonstrate that the accusations, at least in the form we have them today lack substance, and therefore unless facts can be marshaled, the complaint lacks merit.

Let’s start by clearly stating it is not the job of a Christian or an apologist to justify the practices of any public school; since this is a complaint it is the responsibility of the northern Kentucky freethinkers to demonstrate where specifically there is a meaningful violation of the law, or of constitutional principles. Thus, merely referencing a religious text because it is “religious” (such as a complaint about students reading a passage from Genesis relating to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah), is meaningless without more information than presented in the complaint. Is this merely one viewpoint on an issue presented in contrast with several others,[1] is it some presentation of an alleged development within human thought,[2] is it a literary question comparing the text to the style presented in some other text,[3] or is it included in a discussion of the archeology of the region?[4] Without more specific information, the charge must be dismissed as lacking sufficient evidence to even be considered. Similarly, a passing reference is made to an incident at some prior point in time, a book on evolution was said to be inappropriate by school authorities, the reason why the book is inappropriate is not stated, we are left to assume it was the subject matter (biological evolution), but such an assumption is not necessarily correct. Some books on “evolution” are actually books pushing religious naturalism,[5] such as Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker, older works are explicitly racist (including Darwin’s The Descent of Man), and some contain elements of a eugenicist agenda, which might very well be offensive to students who have relatives with disabilities, or are themselves disabled. Nor do we know why the student allegedly brought the book to school, which is a rather interesting question to ignore.

 

Additionally, the complaint focuses greatly on a youth pastor who also works in the school system as a physical education teacher, and presents the claims of the Church as proof that this man should not work at the school as a teacher. And yet, it is not uncommon for pastors, youth pastors, or others to have outside jobs (such personnel in Christian circles are commonly referred to as “tent-workers,” or “bi-vocational ministers.”) The question of whether this teacher is also a minister is irrelevant, (in fact, we could ask for the clarification of whether the freethinkers are suggesting that Christians in general should be discriminated against during the hiring practices, or just those involved in bi-vocational ministry). Unless, they can demonstrate that the teacher does not understand the distinctions between instructional periods and non-instructional periods, they do not have a case. They have not intimated that he is leading the students in prayer nor that he is preaching during class period. Similarly, they have complained that this same man and his wife are involved in the Association of Christian Athletes in the High School. And yet, it needs to be remembered, most organizations on high school campuses are required in many districts to have a faculty advisor of some sort.[6] They have presented no indications that he has broken any rules of decorum or any laws simply by serving in such a capacity.

 

Additionally there were complaints about advertisements and newsletters. The latter provide no context to be useful at all. In one case, it was a picture of students praying at the flagpole. There has been no evidence presented that the school’s administration or faculty initiated this prayer session; otherwise a newsletter covering the event in a newsletter is simply an example of journalism showing interest in the student’s activities. Similarly complaints were leveled that a student was allowed to make a statement in the newsletter of that student’s own faith, but we don’t have any evidence of why this particular student was chosen. Was he elected by his peers? Was it because he had organized the campaign against heroin at the school, and chose to speak about his motivations? Was it drawn by name? Unless it is demonstrated that the school’s administration chose this student in order to present a pro-Christian message then the newsletter’s reference does not make a case for the freethinkers.

 

A display of Bible’s involving the heroin epidemic was also a part of the complaint, but again, we are left without sufficient context (the display of Bibles actually appears from the photographs to be more accurately Bible’s displayed along side other materials).[7] We are not told who organized the display (students of faculty) what the other materials presented are, what the display of the Bible’s is intended to mean, etc. Without this context the complaint is meaningless.

 

Finally, two advertisements and a display of Bibles are noted, one is a basketball tournament at the Dry Ridge Baptist Church, and the second is a tutoring service by a Methodist church being advertised. Unless things have changed from my own high school days, it is not uncommon for schools to advertise community events, particularly those aimed at youth. Someone may have a case to argue this is unreasonable for the school to advertise the Baptist church’s basketball tournament if, and only if, it can be demonstrated that other groups were turned down under similar conditions, yet no one has suggested that a local mosque or synagogue has requested to advertise a sporting event and had their request denied. In fact, to advertise events at secular venues, but to deny advertisement at similar community events held at Churches would be explicit discrimination. The other point, was a Methodist church that offered a tutoring service to the students. Yet, the advertisement explicitly states that the school was not endorsing the church, and again, no evidence of discrimination against other tutoring services has been offered.

 

The case, as it has been presented on the Freethinkers own website is not a case at all. Without more evidence, facts, or additional information, Christians should watch this matter very closely, and consider whether the schools response should merit a lawsuit of discrimination on the grounds that said response would constitute discrimination against religious students.

            [1]To be clear, it is equally wrong under the constitution for the schools to take an antireligious stance as it is a proreligious stance, but describing the stances taken by various worldviews, including theistic ones, is not actually a violation of any principle. In fact, if only nontheistic worldviews are presented, then the school is advocating a position that God does not exist.

[2]If this is the case, I strongly object to the presentation myself. Students should not be taught the chronological snobbery nor the myth of progress popular among many progressives and atheists; such constitutes a clear violation of the establishment clause. Nor should appeals to the methods of the religionsgeschichte schule, or its modern counterpart, mythicist interpretations on the Bible be presented in public schools, on the dual grounds that it would be teaching a specific approach to religion and it would be based in bad scholarship.

[3]If this be the case, I would again object, since this may employ an approach to religious literature that does not maintain the required neutrality of a public school system. See the above note on mythacist interpretations of the Bible.

[4]Again, based on the way the presentation is made, in this case it is the Christian and not the atheist that has the greater grounds for objection.

[5]To be clear, I am not against such books being allowed on campus. My opinion is that they should be handled on the same grounds as Christian examples on the same topic; The Blind Watchmaker should be treated in the same manner as Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.

            [6]My own experience in High School included a Christian Youth Club in my sophomore year, though I was a little conservative at the time for the group, and did not involve myself later in the group, to my own regret. The faculty advisor was also my algebra teacher, and I never would have known he were a Christian if he had not been involved with the club. He generally sat in the background, provided advise as needed or when asked, and let us do as we thought best.

            [7]This and the student picture and interview are both discussed in the complaint as related to discussions related to Northern Kentucky’s Heroin epidemic.

Christian rights on school grounds

There is currently an article on the WCPO news website complaining about Christian activity in public schools. Though I am a Baptist, I’m against religion being taught in public schools.   My grounds are that I do not trust the government to accurately present Christian thought, especially when taught by a non-Christian teacher.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe students have the right to organize and express their faith. Yes, on school grounds, which belong to the taxpayers. There are several important principles in play when it comes to Christian young people being allowed to pray around a flag-pole, organize a Bible club, or vocally express their faith on school grounds.

The immutability of rights

First, it must be acknowledged that the rights of American citizenship are present in the public as well as in the private sphere of life.   A student does not give up his first amendment rights when he walks onto public property; though, of course, he must obey the rules of decorum and good manners so as not to infringe on the rights of other students.

To argue that Christians must not honor the name of Jesus Christ or live as if Jesus and God are not the center of their existence is to maintain that the government has the authority to require Christians to commit hypocrisy. To use the language of our founders, it argues that government has the right to prohibit the free exercise of religion. Freedom of religion does not mean we have to limit religious thought or sentiment to Sunday services only, or to specific ritual duties; it also means we are free to live a righteous life.[1]

Discrimination

Secondarily, it is often argued that this is somehow “discriminatory” to non-Christian students. This is nonsense, as can be seen by a chess club. No one would argue that the existence of a chess club in an elementary school discriminates against children who do not play chess, nor is it somehow discriminatory if some children choose to play chess during their lunch period. Certainly, there is no reason for non-chess-playing students to feel “threatened” or “fearful.”   No one is harmed by Christians forming a Bible club, provided that non-Christian groups are given the same right to organize.

But, some will say, it is discriminatory that club officers must be Christians; again, this is analogous to other clubs. Spanish clubs do not discriminate against anyone when they require the president (or members) to be able to speak or read Spanish, nor is it discriminatory when the Chess club requires officers to be able to actually play chess. Such rules do not infringe on the rights of other students. In fact, in a sense, not allowing such basic rules can lead to true infringements or negations of rights. Suppose a group of students who prefer checkers infiltrates a chess club, elects one of their own as a president, and promptly rules that all meetings will henceforth play checkers instead of chess. This would not enhance the checkers players rights; they already had every right to form their own club and enjoy the same rights as the chess players, to play their preferred game during non-instructional periods. The only persons who would be affected are the chess players, who find that their own ability to enjoy their preferred game on campus has been diminished.

Similarly, Christian clubs who require officers to uphold some form of the Christian faith are not discriminating against anyone else, since Muslims, Hindus and atheists have the same rights to organize clubs based on their beliefs. Alterations to these principles would merely diminish the rights of each to espouse his beliefs on campus.

Separation of Church and State

Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, the argument most often raised ultimately should be understood to backfire against the opponents of Bible clubs. There is a long standing debate on the first amendment and the separation of church and State, but rather than going into the history of the first amendment, we need to note if there is a separation of Church and State, that is no reason to forbid Bible clubs.

Schools are already necessarily engaged peripherally in religion, and therefore it is the State, not the Church, that should be removed from campus if we hold to a hardened, immutable separation. It is impossible for a school — public or private — to form any curriculum without being affected, intentionally or unintentionally, by religious beliefs.[2] As various scholars of worldview now admit, our view of the world influences not only our understanding of what is true, but also our rules and our means of judging how we know something to be true.

Therefore, if we Americans are to take the first amendment as an absolute separation of Church and state, then I would argue that it is the state, and not the church, that has no proper role in the education of children; and it is the atheist, and not the Christian who is ultimately violating the principle. Atheists have long sought to use the public schools as a point to indoctrinate others into their worldview, as is explicitly admitted in the original humanist manifesto, authored by Thomas Dewey (a major influence on the modern educational establishment).

This should be understood as explicit religious indoctrination done at state expense; it has been done by using of modern myths, such as the false belief that medieval Christians believed the Earth was flat. The atheists are effectively creating a state secularist religion, something that is itself a violation of the separation principle.

This being the case, there are no principled grounds for expelling Christian demonstrations in the public square.

 

 

 

            [1] It could be objected that children, as minors, do not have the full development of their rights, and this is true as far as it goes. (After all, we don’t allow elementary aged children to apply for concealed carry permits.) But that argument doesn’t show any reason to forbid Christians from organizing a Bible club on school grounds if it’s outside of classroom hours. It is the parents, not the government, who are the proper guardians of a child’s rights. Thus, such an argument is functionally limited to suggesting children should have parents sign a permission slip to join a Bible club, not to argue children cannot have one.

[2]Examples include:

  • Any discussion of the history of the United States or Europe must of course address Christianity, and however these questions are to be answered, the teachers, textbook writers, and planners of curriculum presentation of western history will be influenced by whether they think Christianity is true, or false. Similarly, the study of the history of the Middle East will be conditioned on one’s understanding of Islam.
  • The choice of, and commentary about, literature in English classes will similarly be explicitly affected by the teacher’s understanding of Christianity and other religions. How, for example, can Shakespeare be discussed without mentioning the English Bible, and what are we to do with Milton’s paradise lost, which openly states it is a theodicy?
  • To be learned, one must wrestle with the question of whether man is basically good (but does some evil things because of some outside element entering his life), basically evil (as Christians would assert), or some assertion that denies the viability of the distinction. The answer to this question (and many other questions of religious ethics and epistemology) has massive ramifications for conclusions involving the study of psychology, sociology, anthropology, law, ethics, etc.
  • While many focus on the question of evolution in public schools in terms of religion versus science, in many senses, both sides are appealing to religious belief (religion in an academic sense is a study of various questions, including the existence of God or gods. To argue there is no God is therefore an explicit statement of religious belief). One of the very basic distinctions between atheistic evolutionists and Christians (whether they are old earth creationists, young earth creationists or theistic evolutionists) is not about the data involved in the discussion, but about the premises their religious beliefs and the way these premises impact their interpretation of the data. There are similar issues with many other scientific studies.

Social Justice, Rape and the Inadequacy of Atheistic Naturalism

America in the aftermath of the 2016 election saw protests of the election results, including a few riots; there were also a number of apparent hoaxes, and millenials requesting counseling in their university classrooms. While riots certainly are not funny, some of the news stories about university students have driven certain conservatives and moderates to laughter.

Laughter, while understandable, is not particularly helpful. We know that many millenials who feel they are “interested in social justice” will regard the recent election as a confirmation that America is basically a racist, misogynist country (illustrating, perhaps, that confirmation bias is a knife that cuts both ways). But this is political, and the debates involved can better be viewed through the lens of a political blog. Nevertheless, the claim to be “interested in social justice” is an interesting one, though perhaps a bit arrogant. Anyone who is not a psychopath or a sociopath has an interest in social justice; this is relatively uncontroversial.

The difficulties come in how to define “social justice” (or for that matter, “justice”).   There are stark distinctions between the Egalitarianism of John Rawls and the Libertarianism of an Ayn Rand, each of whom considers the other’s position to be unjust. A Christian will be interested as well in matters of “what is deserved,”(justice is about receiving what we deserve, or the prevention of undeserved harm) a position uncommon outside of Christian thought. Yet, the thought of justice is an interesting one, because the prevalent naturalism within millennial societies and the universities shows the contradiction inherent in the modern worldview.

If man is merely an evolved ape, then appeals to justice are appeals to the illusionary. The best argument someone can raise is that justice is something society invented because it provides evolutionary advantages in some circumstances (and only in some circumstances). But no matter how deeply seated that conviction may be, if natural processes only are involved, people cannot be said to have “rights” worthy of being respected.

For example, we live in a culture that properly condemns rape, a horrid evil, so much so that many on the left seek to suspend the usual protections allotted to a man accused of such a crime. The argument is raised that we should always believe one who claims she was raped, that no woman would ever lie about such a thing; and if taken to its logical conclusion, men should be convicted or ostracized by society on the accusation alone.[1]

And yet, if we accept an atheistic model of evolution, the rapist is doing precisely what he ought to be doing: He is supposed to pass on his genes to the next generation by whatever means works; and thousands of years of military history would suggest it is, in fact, an efficient method of both procreation and maintenance of power within a society. If warriors take a number of women by force after conquering a city or village, the men gain a greater likelihood of there being conscripts for some future war.

On evolutionary grounds, those committing such crimes could aptly claim they are just “born that way.” Evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins might argue they would never try to organize a society on evolution. But when one considers that these same evolutionists offer evolutionary explanations for the development of moral codes (such as the belief that justice was created to benefit society), one must ask, on what grounds do they believe they can argue society can be organized on any grounds other than evolution? One cannot argue that societal evolution is an explanation for moral codes one minute, and argue we should avoid social Darwinism a few minutes later.

Some have argued, societies that develop theories about human rights have a stronger social fabric, which gives them a better chance to survive; but where has it been proven that this is how societies have evolved in the first place? And is it really true? A number of totalitarian societies who long ago lost their God-given respect for women have survived largely unchanged over millennia. And if this is the case, on what grounds can we consider western societies more successful than the Saudi Arabians?

Finally, a few, such as Richard Rority have noted this is just “our way of doing things.”   And yet, if it is just “our way,” on what grounds can we condemn someone else’s ways of doing things, even those within our society, as “wrong?”

In other words, any discussion of justice, social justice, equity or egalitarianism is at its root contradictory to the principles of atheistic, biological evolution. This is as true for atheists advocating libertarianism, such as Ayn Rand, with her claim that socialism is the enslavement of the most capable (which of course presumes this is somehow wrong); and it is true for socialists, who essentially argue we should maintain an equality of individuals that is at odds with evolutionary theory while insisting that evolutionary theory is true.

Of course, a third possibility is that the atheists are wrong, that man is not merely an over-evolved ape with a slightly bigger brain, a thesis that does little to explain our creativity or our ability to make ground/consequent arguments.

Perhaps instead we should consider that the reason rape is wrong is because God made human beings, and therefore women are worthy of respect. We have been given innately a conscience that both recognizes women as made in imageo dei and has not been eroded by the culture in which we live in (at least, not yet).

            [1]As the Tawana Brawley case, the Duke Rape case and the various men freed by the Innocence project, however, this approach may not be very wise.

Politics as Usual: I Quit the Field in Disgust

So I am ending this series a little early, being disgusted by this latest scandal by the current Republican nominee. I may eventually put these articles along with others intended into a Kindle publication, as I did with the Positive Case for Christ, but this election cycle reminds me of why I have grown to prefer books on politics rather than the news media’s coverage or talk radio, and why I prefer political philosophy to the partisan debates of the moment, one must have idealism tempered by utilitarian concerns of how to make things work in politics, unfortunately, this does not describe modern America’s political diet, and to continue discussing political principles within the growing echo chambers based more on sound and fury is to be drowned out, particularly since I am not very good at marketing this blog.

I’m by nature of a man who makes arguments, who reasons his way to his positions, and then when he has crystalized those positions he will defend that rational with passion. But the timing of this release seems clear, we will no longer be discussing issues and political philosophy, instead, reason and wisdom will be crying in the streets abandoned until after November. I’m done for this year, and will only write a pair of articles defending my brethren; to explain why the question is not one of a hypocritical church, but a church in an imperfect and self-destructive society.

I have never been a Trump fan, back in January I wrote an article entitled, “Evangelicals and the Donald,” in which I noted it was unwise to support Trump during the primaries; latter an interesting article restored my thoughts that my brethren had not gone insane – reports of Evangelical support for Trump during the primaries was likely overstated. Yet, after the primaries it became apparent that Millennials, both inside the church and outside, viewed Evangelical’s who support Trump (whether in the Primary or the General) as “hypocrites” and as an argument against Christianity, and some made claims about the religious right as well (as if Trump could every be rationally described as a conservative of any stripe). Even many young Evangelical’s reacted when a Systematic theologian named Wayne Grudem argued that voting for Trump was the right choice. His argument was sound, but his word choice though was not great.[1] We have also been pilloried in the mainstream press, though this is nothing new, what is new, in a sense is the coming to age of Millennials. Some have suggested we vote third party or for Hillary because of the optics and the way millennials will perceive a vote for Trump; I’m sympathetic, but I’ve never made decisions based on what someone else thought I should do, and optics isn’t something I take into account in formulating my philosophy or theology. If the world thinks I’m crazy, well I’m in good company, they crucified my Master, after all. And yet, not explaining why a Christian might buck the trend to vote for someone with the personal manners of an oaf, of a man I increasingly think of as the Republican Bill Clinton,[2] is unreasonable as well, I planned instead to explain why as a Christian I take the stands I do. In the past, during elections seasons, I have done the obligatory posts on issues Christians ought to be concerned about, but because of these concerns Millennials have, I realized I needed to start defining why I take stands as I do.[3] Conservatives like to talk about principles, but they have long only spoken about them in snippets and soundbytes.

 

An Open Letter to Millennials

You are the reason I began this series, and the reason I may eventually make this material available elsewhere. My generation is often called, “Generation-X” was often dismissed as being educated, but foolish by many of my parent’s generation, meanwhile, many Gen-Xers became scornful of their predecessors, and became convinced of their own moral and intellectual superiority. As I’ve grown older, I understand my parent’s generation better, I’ve learned the weakness that the idealism of youth creates is that this idealism is often impatient and lacks the necessary tempering of wisdom. Young people (and truthfully many moderns in general), live in echo chambers, where they listen only to those who agree with them. This creates an inward arrogance on the one hand, and a tendency to dismiss others too quickly on the other. I am asking you to resist these tendencies for a moment. You have also grown up in a difficult time. In your college years, a questionable approach to epistemology (post-modernism) has dominated your instruction in ways I’m not even sure you understand yet. One of the side effects is you went to academic institutions that failed you, because to a post-modernist, only one side of an argument ever needs to be considered, that which has a view of a particular type of social progress.

Francis Schaeffer in his book The Great Evangelical Disaster noted that many of the cool, hip Christians of his day thought they demonstrated that they were “with it” because they wore blue jeans, missing the fact that blue jeans were not really a badge of anything since everyone wore them. Today, many millennials do the same thing with the phrase, “Social Justice;” I often hear your generation saying you are interested in Social Justice, but then, so is everyone else. The problem with Social Justice is not convincing people to be for it, the problem is how do we define it, and in the past century many different approaches have been suggested. The distinctions in our approaches are often less about ends than means; and while this does not end disagreement, the differences are important. One may bitterly oppose a racist and amiably, but vigorously disagree with someone about how to deal with racial inequalities in our society. Booker T Washington and W E B Deboise disagreed on such matters, but at the end of the day, their cause was the same, the full rights of citizenship.

I believe Trump is a lying, sexist, misanthrope who will say anything to get elected, whether he believes it or not. I abhor his treatment of women as sexual playthings,[4] I abhor that much of his money is comes from the gambling industry, an industry that hurts the poor. I abhor (as a Christian thinker) his tendency to misrepresent conservative and Christian arguments; his dishonesty and hatred of good men throughout the primary season, and I can go on and on; I have never liked Donald Trump. And yet, I also abhor much of Hillary Clinton’s intolerant rhetoric (the statements she made about those living in trailer parks in the nineties in my mind is just as bad as racism), the way she has attacked the character of women who have a history with her husband, including those who have made allegations that Bill Clinton raped them, like Juanita Broaddrick. I am angered that her husband’s administration, with her apparent backing, examined for political capital the FBI files of Republican donors, and I believe the evidence suggest that she took bribes through her husband’s speeches and the Clinton foundation while she was Secretary of State.

 

Many people will immediately accuse me of defending Trump by making an argument from moral equivalency, but I am not defending Trump, I’m defending believers, and the only issue of moral equivalency would really be, in my mind, why is it when we have two candidates with such serious history of moral failings, dishonesty, and intolerance does the popular press only asks about the character of one of them – but this is a question for another day.

In short, I want to make a different argument, not why Donald Trump is good for the country, nor why Hillary Clinton is bad for the country, but why someone might think Donald Trump is less bad, this will be in part 2.

                  [1]Grudem argued that a vote for Trump was a morally good choice; but this assumes something about Biblical ethics I do not – that there is always a choice that is morally good, and a choice that is morally bad. I can agree with much of what Grudem has stated about the relationship of the Church and the State, I can agree with him on his discussions of the Old Testament, but I cannot argue that voting for Trump is morally good, I can only make the case that voting for Trump may be the least morally bad.

[2]My perceptions about the Clintons, as will become apparent, is not based in ideology, Bill made it clear he was no ideologue. After 1994, he abandoned his economic platform, blasted the Contract with America as extremist, but then adopted that contract as major points of his political accomplishments beginning with a speech during his re-election campaign, when he stated he had raised taxes “too much.” In a sense, I view the Clintons the same way I view Lucky Luciano, the man who organized the American underworld during prohibition into what we now call the Mafia. Luciano and the Clintons on the one hand are figures that are morally reprehensible, and solely interested in enriching themselves at the expense of the public, and yet, I find that I admire the genius of their ability to organize and sell their ideas, foolish sinful human being that I am.

 

Perhaps it is only me, but I often think of Bill Clinton as the man who stole what little honor the Democratic party had left. I can remember watching my father grow anger, the man who always described himself as a life long democrat, and then a Reagan Democrat finally said he did not leave his party, his party left him. I watched a man I had disagreed with, but at least respected, Dick Gephardt prove himself to similarly dishonor himself to protect a dishonorable man, and from the primaries that was precisely the worries I had for the Republicans, that a Trump nomination would discredit what was left of the party and take the country with him.

[3]There were originally two parts intended, political ideals (starting with my article on why Christians approve of democracy, and one last piece that as not completed, on the very notion of Social Justice) followed by a practical discussion on economics, race, LGBTQ, and if there was time immigration and poverty. I began the series with my usual tendency to clear what I consider the underbrush that makes it difficult to make a point, in this case, our tendency to make judgments based on perceptions about motives, rather than on facts and reasoning that can be determined, and I was then planning on expanding this for a Kindle release in 2018.

                  [4]To be fair, Trump has apologized, and the tape was 11 years ago. We play these odd games with apologies in this country and I do not want to engage it in. Trent Lott’s career was largely ruined when he praised Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign, as it was insinuated to be support for Thurmond’s segregationist stance. Meanwhile, various democrats, including the Clinton’s have faced no reprisals for their support for Senator Robert Byrd, former Klansman, who lied about the extent of his involvement with the Klan. There was a long standing tendency by Democrats to argue Thurmond’s repentance was not genuine, there was a long term tendency by Republicans to say the same thing about Democrats such as Byrd. Engaging in games such as this are petty, and something I wish to avoid playing these games, I can’t judge anyone’s hearts, and motives belong in God’s court, not mine.

But, what is clear, is that Trump has not mastered his tongue; I grant the possibility he could change over the years, but his language during the campaign does not support that assumption.

Politics as Usual Part 2: Defining our Choices

This election is a tragedy. It is easy to hear Donald Trump’s tape and immediately grow hot and angry, this is a righteous anger, but this is not how we should vote. Elections and voting is an act to the believer of Stewardship, it is something God has given us in society, and as a result, it should be done with wisdom and thought, not merely passion. Before making a decision, sometimes its help to consider one’s choices. We have five choices:

  1. Push Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to drop out of the election.
  2. Move to another country or secede from the United States.
  3. Abstain from the election, by either not voting, not voting for the top of the ticket, or voting for a third party candidate.
  4. Vote for Hillary Clinton.
  5. Vote for Donald Trump.

Option 1

I have heard that the Republicans have no means of making Donald Trump drop out of the election, but many in the party are angrily withdrawing their support and calling on him drop out of the race in favor of Mike Pence. I am fully sympathetic with this action, but lets be clear, Trump is a megalomaniac, he isn’t very likely to drop out. Similar things are true of Hillary, she has no reason to drop out.

 

Option 2

Impractical for myself, though I suspect if our economic practices continue as they do, more and more of the wealthy will leave the country as their business produce more and more in Asia. But this requires both means, and a belief that one is not needed by the Lord in the United States. Secession is an extreme option, that will lead to war, and a great deal of human suffering; if a state or block of states were to choose to secede, people will need to make a decision on where they stand, but I think it unwise to push for that option until human lives are already at stake.

 

Option 3

It has already been demonstrated why third party campaigns don’t affect elections in the direction their voters usually intend,[3] I will not regurgitate the argument. To vote for a third party or not vote is an abstention, a protest and to some an honorable one perhaps, but a protest that will have no impact on the national election, itself, or on society.

I have not seen any scientific surveys of Evangelicals, but I know a large number of them, many that are apologists, ho are choosing the option of voting third party. I will not denigrate them or throw stones at them for doing so. They are voting their consciences and it is not my place to judge them.

Options 4 and 5

                  I will treat these two together, I have noted a few Christians, friends, who have argued that Hillary Clinton is the lesser of two evils, many of them being conservatives. Their essential argument is that Trump’s blustery personality will cause us to be embroiled in wars, and will quicken the pace of America’s decline to the status of a banana republic, in some cases they step to far beyond what should be extrapolated from the evidence, at least in my judgment, but I can understand why they take that stand. I know a number of others who until today planned to vote for Trump, though recent events may have changed their minds. This is not an advocacy of their campaigns, it is not an endorsement of either Trump or Clinton, rather it is more often than not an example of voting for the lesser of two evils – we might very well wish for a president that would administrate the republic from a Christian worldview, but however desirable that might be, it is very unlikely to happen this year. In a sense, some may vote for Trump or Hillary as the lesser of two evils, let me give a defense of that position from history.

 

As a professor of mine recently noted about the #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary movements, issues of history and nations, sadly, aren’t that easy. In 1941 America supported Stalin over Hitler. Stalin was not the lesser of two evils, he murdered more people than Hitler did, his regime was surpassed (possibly) only by Chairman Mao in its damage to human beings. Stalin was also a more serious threat to the United States, and was aggressively expansionistic. Before America entered the war, the Soviet Union fought on the side of Hitler, and participated in the invasion of Poland (the invasion that brought France and England to finally declare War on Hitler) and the regime murdered numerous Polish citizens. Before leaving the side of the Axis, the Soviets invaded Finland in the Winter War, and Americans were as concerned about the Soviets as the Germans, and yet, Germany, while not the greater threat, was certainly the more immediate one. And yet, even before we were bombed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, we were already providing war material to both Britain and the Soviet Union;[1] History would tend to indicate this was the best decision that could have been made at the time; Hitler lost the war, in large part because of the way he divided his forces between an Eastern and a Western front. Practically speaking, it was either support Stalin, or lose the war.

And yet, this was not a morally “good choice,” supporting the Stalinist regime would mean the surrendering of vast territories to the not so tender mercies of the Soviet Union, and as the war progressed this was something accepted by both the British and the Americans. Instead, perhaps, our entry into the war with the alliance we made wasn’t the good choice, perhaps it was just less bad. Similarly, perhaps believers voting for either Trump or Hillary are not making a case that they are good candidates, perhaps they simply believe it is the least bad choice.

                  [1] Nor were Americans before 1941 entirely sympathetic with the United Kingdom. The UK had a history of Imperialism, something that few American’s favored, and most Americans felt that the British had tricked us into footing the bills for the first World War.

[2] See Michael Medved, The Ten Big Lies About America.

Politics as Usual Part 3: Marching to Judgment, unless

 

Politics as Usual Part 3: Marching to Judgment, unless

But besides looking at our choices, then there is another thing to consider. Why are the five choices I listed in Part 2 the choices we have? The answer isn’t because they were the candidates supported in the primaries, this was the proximate cause, not the ultimate one. Trump was heavily supported by independents in early primary states, and he has attracted massive crowds, and while the tapes are shocking in their details they should not be.

In a democratic republic, the government ultimately reflects the people. I had a female coworker today state she was not upset by Trump’s comments because many men make such comments all the time and many women do the same thing to men, or to other women. She is partially right, the problem isn’t that Trump is a sexual deviant in a land of the sexually pure, it is that Trump openly lives the life that many men would live if they could. Trump in many senses in his callous disregard for others represents the callous disregard of the modern world, which cares about people in the abstract, but engages in backbiting, gossip and the spreading of dissension with coworkers, “friends” and families. Trump, in short, is us, and as we should respond to the ugliness of the man as we would respond to the ugliness of what we see in the mirror – by realizing its time to make some changes.

I have heard it said that Whitaker Chamber’s was asked why he wrote about the problems of Communist infiltration of the Government, Chamber’s noted he did it to save the country, and the retort was the question of the hour, is America worth saving. I must confess, I do not believe, as a nation, that we deserve saving. I have not been able to say “God bless America” in more than a decade; I beg Him for mercy, but there is something wrong with asking for blessing on the cesspool of entertainment we have created for ourselves, the millions we have slaughtered in abortion mills, and there is no repentance in our hearts. There was a time when America engaged in soul searching over the evil’s of slavery, but such soul searching would mean taking time away from whatever trivial thing has engaged our minds at the moment. Entertainment is no longer recreation to recharge the batteries, it’s the central element of human life; the Creator God has been replaced by the court jesters, whom we now treat as wise, compassionate and learned men.

The Roman Republic became the Roman Empire because a number of Demagogic politicians sought to use the pains and sorrows of the people of Rome as a means to elected office, and they used the powers of those offices to expand their own roles in the cities, in part by ignoring traditions of term limits. Eventually, Octavius, humbly accepted control of the empire from the Senate in an act of Political theater, and in the name of saving the republic. Dictators, at least initially, come to power because the people choose to allow them to do so. I believe America is on such a path, but as a believer, I believe that such a path is in part the justice of the Creator, whom we have ignored, and He can change our hearts.

I believe the real answer to these questions is ultimately to remember that the Church’s power is not found in politics, marketing strategies, or in the things of this world. It is found in the work of the Spirit through the Church, something I am afraid the modern Church has forgotten. I am not one to fight battles over things like music, but I find it questionable that the major arguments for these things is the need to attract people to the faith, and I believe, in a sense, we are trying to do the Holy Spirit’s job for Him. We cannot find relief for spiritual problems in political solutions, whatever political theory we may espouse. Politics may be important, but it is not of ultimate importance.

Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman watches in vain.

A Christian Defense of Free Speech

            One of the great torrents in our society is the debate over free speech in our university culture or, rather the use of speech codes based on European rather than American conceptions of free speech. Thus, we have discussions of various issues, such as trigger warnings, free speech zones. Events at Missouri State university and Yale last year, along with the famous “Chalkening” at Emory have made this a national issue. Books have been written on this topic, most recently by Kirsten Powers.[1] It is not only Liberals, however, who challenge this policy, while Powers writes about the American Left on University campuses today, it was the right who opposed free speech on campuses during the Vietnam War protests. Recent statements by San Francisco forty-niners Colin Kaeperick for not standing during the national anthem reveals that many social conservatives have similar weaknesses on the principle of free speech as many liberals do in questions regarding the Dallas Cowboy’s desire to support police with a decal on their helmet.

            But why should a Christian, or anyone else, for that matter, care about free speech? From a practical standpoint, because it is a necessary element for a democracy to function; In a democratic, constitutional republic, one of the necessary prerequisites is a society that agrees to settle its differences by force of argument rather than force of arms, and thus it becomes necessary to allow all comers to make their case. In a sense then the arguments for democracy of separation of powers are therefore arguments for free speech.

            For many Evangelicals, the points I made in discussing freedom of religion would demonstrate freedom of speech as a corollary. If man has free will, and can accept or reject God’s plan of salvation, then it seems one must also allow them access to the arguments both for an against His plan. There are three major points where Christians can be accused of hypocrisy on this issue, and one major modern assault.  Let’s look at a Christian response on all four.

Pornography

            Christians have long been opposed to pornographic material, and in many cases by legal suppression, so is this a violation of the principle of free speech? The answer is simply, no, because pornography is not speech. Speech is quite simply the ability to communicate an idea, principle or idea. Similarly, when the constitution refers to expression in the first amendment, it refers to word choice, genre, and other elements of “written expression,” which are means to the end of communicating a point. Pornography, however, doesn’t seek to communicate an idea at all – not even ideas about human sexuality – rather it is about exciting the libido. Speech requires thought, pornographic material is antithetical to thinking.[2]

Minors

            A second and related issue is the question of access to speech by minors. But, then, we have never understood minors to possess full access of their constitutional rights. For example, even the staunchest proponent of the most expansive interpretation of the second amendment (say someone who argued citizens should be allowed to buy surface to air missiles) would not argue said right applies to a toddler. Similarly, the right to access speech have long been understood to be filtered through the minor’s parents. When Christians and others argue that the public square should have some elements that are child friendly, or family friendly, what is really being argued is that society should not seek to make end runs around the parent’s obligation to serve as a guardian and protector, or developer of a child’s mind and spirit.

Christian Campuses

            Some have also argued that Christian institutions stifle free speech by imposing speech codes on college campuses. This was an important discussion when the Liberty University Young Democrats club was disallowed recognition as an official club at Liberty University (mysteriously, when Liberty’s subsequent decision to do the same thing with the Young Republican’s club did not create the same stir among the popular press).  This goes back to one of the major flaws in modern thought, it seems we assume an institution is either an educational institution or a religious one, I would assume many, if not most are both. The reason, however, why Christian institutions are not enemies of free speech, even when they impose codes involving speech or restricting education to those signing doctrinal statements is that these are decisions made by the student and staff at those institutions before signing those statements. It should be assumed, if a student signs a statement such as that of the creed I regularly signed at Bob Jones University, they do so not because they are being bullied into the decision, but rather because they already agree with the positions espoused. In accepting the limits to a certain breadth of opinion, the theological student at such an institution gains a greater depth of understanding of Christian theology and thought, something a believer may very well prize, similarly, since these institutions serve in part to train pastors, they provide an to associated churches credentials for pastoral ministry, something that requires a doctrinal commitment of some kind. Nor is this uncommon in other fields; an Evangelical systematic theology class begins with the assumptions that Evangelical Christianity is true (it is in a sense, post apologetic and post conversion), this is similar to the physics professor who does not bother trying to prove that the universe we exist in is actually real.

            A second consideration is the false idea that students in Christian colleges are not being exposed to the breadth of scholarship, simply because the facility is an Evangelical one. While at the Bob Jones Memorial Seminary, I read Bultmann’s New Testament Theology, various pieces written by Karl Barth on the Bible, various writings by Catholic scholars (often in areas where Evangelicals and Catholics disagree), a textbook on Church history written from a decidedly non-Evangelical basis. In short, the marketplace of ideas is perhaps an old fashioned idea, in reality we have an internet of free speech, and even those in Christian research universities interact with those outside of Christianity. In a sense, the Evangelical university and seminary serves as Christian think-tanks, interacting with the philosophical ideas and worldviews of their non-Christian counterparts.

Racism et al.

            An argument often raised for abandoning the American concept of Free Speech for the more limited concepts of Europe is the belief that harm is done by allowing racists and others access to the market of free ideas. But of course fails to reckon with the importance of the civil society underlying the First Amendment. In reality, while the law is extremely important in governing a society, if the civil society does not support the rule of law, then the rule of law ultimately will not matter. Take for example the various racially inspired lynchings in the South (and in a few cases in the North as well, though we seem less willing to note the serious issues with racism above the Mason-Dixon line). Technically, such acts were illegal, but when the Klan hung someone, local law enforcement often looked the other way, and if there was any interference in Klan business, jury nullification would prevent justice from being enacted under the rule of law. A civil society that accepts the basic principles of a constitutional republic is a prerequiste for the actualization of any freedom.  

            Freedom of speech is not the freedom to be heard (I have the right, after all, to choose what radio stations to which I listen, what news programs I choose to watch, and what books I choose to read), and it is not the freedom not to be offended (otherwise, I suggest that the Beverly Hillbillies should be taken off the air on the same grounds that one might show disapproval of minstrel shows[3]). Freedom of speech is the right to make a case for my position. The thing is, human beings will make a case for what they believe even if illegal, and if racially insensitive speech is made forbidden, then the Neo-nazis and others from their off shore websites, will simply make the argument that the reason why the government forbids them the right to speak is because the government cannot answer their objections. Of course, when allowed access to the market of ideas, such groups usually find themselves out of favor – the problem with racism isn’t that it is unpalatable, its that it is certifiably wrong, and the pseudo-scientific reasoning of the early progressive movement will not find lodging in an era where their ideas are known to be false.

            The second and larger problem, though, is that defining hate speech can be made so broad it becomes idea suppression, in the guise of protecting minorities. One problem with racism is that, for many[4] the accusation of racism is not handled as we do accusations of other things: it is  usually the accuser and not the defendant who has the burden of proof, but with allegations of racism, this is often reversed. Thus, one can simply argue that certain ideas do not have the right to be in the market place of ideas because of some suspected hint of racism, or because someone who was a racist might have advocated something similar at some point in American history. Thus, we have events like the “chalkening” at Emory university where pro-trump messages were written on college campuses were something the student body demanded to be suppressed, on the grounds that it was racially insensitive. One may well oppose the current republican candidate on many grounds, including insensitivity (a case he seems quite capable of making on his own, without the assistance of the students of emory), but to argue that only Bernie Sanders[5] or Hillary Clinton signs should be allowed on campus means only one party’s platform is given room for actual debate. Similar things are true in debating tax structures, welfare reform and many other modern political discussions when someone is always willing to somehow use race to try to attack the character rather than the arguments of their opponents.

            Americans for years used to say, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” This is something we have lost, likely because without something like protestantism’s emphasis on the freewill of man, one has very little to actually ground this principle in. As noted previously, Christians view mankind as having dignity because they are made in the image of God; the modern atheist has no such basis to ground his desire for dignity, and forever faces the conflict of his worldview. I suggest the wars over free speech are simply a symptom of the deeper elements of the culture wars.


            [1]Kirsten Powers, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing the First Amendment.

           

            [2]This, of course, means great care must still be used in discussing pornography, the Supreme Court is famous for noting difficulties in defining obscenity, and such care is reasonable from a legal perspective.

            [3]I have noticed American leftists are highly selective in what acts of stereotyping they considered objectionable, I have yet to hear Clinton era democrats reprimanded for their derogatory discussions of those living in trailer parks from those who seem to delight in referring to any reference to violence in the inner cities as inspired by some hidden racism.

            [4]I say many because, as noted in the previous footnote, Americans are highly selective in their outrage in this area as well. Joe Biden has made comments about minorities that ought to make American’s cringe, and when Hillary Clinton was accused of anti-semiticism by important democratic party donors, little was discussed by the mainstream press. The same persons who insinuated that Reagan’s discussions of state’s rights was an appeal to racists rarely asked how many lynchings Robert Byrd of West Virginia assisted with while a member of the Klu Klux Klan; he was considered repentant meanwhile, Strom Thurmond’s repudiation of racism was generally considered suspect.

            [5]In a bit of mischief, I could easily compare Bernie Sander’s platform to Hitler’s 25 points, it would be a fallacy, but no one today seems to understand great care should be used in comparing candidates to Hitler. Still, if I did so, I doubt I would be given the same audience as the anti-Trump crowd.