Archive for Random Thoughts

Mar
11

J. Gresham Machen on National Parks

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The great 20th century theologian J. Gresham Machen was not much a fan of the “National Park” system.

“A great system of National Parks has been built up. It might have been a beneficent thing if it meant that the natural beauty of the regions now embraced in the National Parks were to be preserved. But as a matter of fact it means nothing of the kind. During a period of over 30 years I used to go in the summers, with some interruptions, to Mt. Desert Island, Maine. When I first went there it was about the sweetest and most beautiful lake and mountain region that could possibly be imagined. It really seemed as though no human being would have the heart to destroy the delicate charm of those woods. But then came Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the Lafayette (later Acadia), National Park, and all was changed. Huge roads now scar practically every mountainside and skirt the shores of practically every lake. The woods near the roads have been ruthlessly ‘cleaned up.’ The natural beauty of the region has been systematically destroyed. When I go into that National Park, with its dreary regularity and its officialdom, I almost feel as though I were in some kind of penal institution. I feel somewhat as I do when I am in Los Angeles or any of the other over-regulated cities of the West, where pedestrians meekly wait around on the street corners for non-existent traffic and cross the streets only at the sound of the prison gong. Certain it is at any rate that the best way to destroy true recreation is for government to go into the business of promoting it.”

From Education, Christianity, and the State, excerpt reprinted in “Men versus Machines,” The Freeman, Sept. 1992.

Thanks to Timothy Terrell and Doug Douma for the tip.

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Oct
16

Ministers make a difference

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A friend relayed to me a remarkable quote from a recent sermon at his congregation:

“And if I thought that you could substantially change human behavior by laws then I might think about becoming a politician, but I have zero faith in politics to actually change the greatest problems on this planet because you can make all the laws in the world but that would not change the human heart. You could make a law that outlaws racism. You could make a law that says ‘Don’t be racist’, but no law is going to turn a racist heart into a heart that loves all people. The only person who can do that is God. Only God can do that. God has got to change the human heart. In John 8:31-32 Jesus says ‘If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples then you will know the truth and truth will set you free’.”

I firmly believe that if churches are to become more liberty-minded and opposed to the violence of statism, the best thing that could happen would be for ministers to lead the way. As it becomes more apparent that the State is not the kingdom of God and is in fact among the greatest threats to the church worldwide, I hope we’ll begin to see more ministers and Bible class leaders being this bold.

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Keith asks via email:

Do you think that if the church really returned to the way of the early church where they had all things in common, then social security would be dead because we (a large portion of the population) could with confidence bow out of the nanny state?

I think it might be possible, but not particularly probable or even necessary. For one thing, I do not believe we are really called to live in the same way the early church did – at least not economically – and I doubt that people would really accept that way of being because of the clear advantages toward operating more generally within the broader marketplace that exists today. Additionally, social security is already unnecessary, and it should just be eliminated altogether. Nobody in my generation (millennials) has any expectation of getting anything out of social security, and thus those of us with half a brain look to other means of providing for ourselves through production – either by building capital or by becoming more entrepreneurial.

In my estimation, it would be better to encourage each other to be productive in the marketplace, generating wealth that benefits everyone by creatively solving problems of value in the marketplace. When we voluntarily interact in peaceful ways, everybody wins.

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Tim T. points us to a great quote from John Howard Yoder:

“And might it be, if we could be freed from the compulsiveness of the vision of ourselves as the guardians of history, that we could receive again the gift of being able to see ourselves as participants in the loving nature of God as revealed in Christ? Perhaps the songs of the earliest church might restore this to us if the apostolic argument cannot. A church once freed from compulsiveness and from the urge to manage the world might then find ways and words to suggest as well to those outside its bounds the invitation to a servant stance in society.”
–John Howard Yoder

This certainly applies to the current same-sex marriage issue, as Tim explains:

There is a fundamental problem with the current marriage debate. The question is not whether marriage means this or that or whether the government should do this or that. The fundamental assumption that both sides share is that those who have a vision of an ideal society have the right and duty to take the reins of power and history and make that vision reality through the use of political power.

That assumption is wrong. History is God’s, not ours.

Tim is part of the Christian libertarian Facebook Group. You should be too!

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Mar
04

Teach Your Children Well

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There is nothing wrong with letting kids play as heroes fighting monsters, but sometimes you have to wonder what sorts of messages toys send to kids. For instance, if you need to teach your children about the virtues of remote warfare the recent release of die-cast aerial drone toys:

Seriously, this exists. And the reviews on Amazon are just hilarious. My favorite: “This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I’m a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! It’s like I’m sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!”

(By the way, you could alternatively demonstrate to your kids that you care about peace by joining the Clear Skies Initiative.)

Or perhaps you want to show your child that it is perfectly alright to submit to a naked-body scan at an airport or to get felt up by a TSA agent. In that case, I suggest the TSA checkpoint kit:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41G9WA5NRDL._SX385_.jpg

Really, who comes up with this stuff? There is wisdom in the book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

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