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Patriarch-Gregory-III-of-Syria

The Catholic Patriarch of Syria has recently stated that a United States attack on Syria would be a “criminal act,” highlighting how U.S. government interventionism not only affects millions of innocents negatively but also has a drastic effect upon the church in those countries.

Quoting Patriarch Gregory (from CNSNews.com):

“We must listen to the Pope’s appeal for peace in Syria,” said Patriarch Gregory III. “If Western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attack being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world’s trust in the West.”

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Aug
20

If I were a pastor

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vangogh_church1890I am not a pastor. I am not a minister. I am not a preacher. I am not a priest. I am not an evangelist. I am not an elder. I am not a deacon. I am not a reverend. I am not in the ministry. I am not ordained.

I am not complaining, and am honored to be addressed as such.

I only bring this up because, since I often write about Christian themes, I sometimes get e-mails in which I am addressed as Pastor Vance, Father Vance, Rev. Vance, or Preacher Vance. I also occasionally get e-mails in which reference is made to my church or my congregation or my ministry.

I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian, and am no stranger to preaching, teaching, and church work, and have written a number of Christian books, but I don’t want to give people the impression that I am something I am not.

So, I am not a pastor; however, if I were a pastor, and if I did have a congregation to lead, there are some things that I would never allow to take place in the church on my watch. Here are seven of them.

First of all, if I were a pastor, there would be no flags of any kind on the platform, on the walls of the church, on a flagpole, stuck in the ground, or anywhere on the property. Not even on the Sunday before Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, or Veterans Day. And not even at a funeral for a veteran if held in the church. And not only would there be no American flag, there would also be no Israeli flag or “Christian” flag. But even if the church had an American flag on the platform because of years of following mindless tradition, I would not lead the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance. I would, of course, point out that the Pledge was written by a socialist Baptist minister.

Second, if I were a pastor, there would be no hymns sung to or about the state. No “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” no “America the Beautiful,” no “We Salute You, Land of Liberty,” no “This Is My Country,” no “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” no “Star-Spangled Banner,” no “God Bless America,” no “God Bless the U.S.A.” And certainly not the blasphemous “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Not even on the Sunday before Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day.

Third, if I were a pastor, there would be no invoking the Jewish wars of the Old Testament against the heathen as a justification for the actions of the U.S. government and its military. Just because God sponsored these wars, and used the Jewish nation to conduct them, does not mean that God sponsors American wars or that America is God’s chosen nation. The U.S. president is not God, America is not the nation of Israel, the U.S. military is not the Lord’s army, and the Lord God never sanctioned any Christian to go on a crusade, commanded him to war on his behalf, or encouraged him to kill, make apologies for the killing of, or excuse the killing of any adherent to a false religion.

Fourth, if I were a pastor, there would be no American statolatry. Romans 13 would never be invoked to justify support for the U.S. government and its wars. There would be no special September 11th commemoration service. The sins of America would not be downplayed because of blind nationalism or American exceptionalism.

Fifth, if I were a pastor, there would be no political activity. This means no Christian Coalition or Focus on the Family voting guides on the back table, no introducing local candidates who claim to be Christians, no promoting candidates, no promoting the Republican Party, no appeals to fax members of Congress about impending legislation, no running for office or encouraging others to do so, no voter registration drives, no reminding the congregation to vote, and certainly no letting the county use the church buildings as a polling place.

Sixth, if I were a pastor, there would be no special law enforcement appreciation days. State and local law enforcement personnel are just as aggressive, militarized, and on the lookout for victimless crimes as their federal counterparts. (See here for the latest outrages.) I would no sooner have an appreciation day for them than I would for FBI, TSA, and DEA agents. Law enforcement personnel would, of course, be welcome to attend services, they would just be encouraged to fight real crime instead of victimless crime, to not set up speed traps and sting operations, and to lay off the doughnuts.

And last, but not least, if I were a pastor, there would be no special recognition given to current or former members of the military. All veterans and active duty military personnel would, of course, be welcome to attend services, just as all pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and politicians would be welcomed. There would be no special military appreciation services. No veterans would be encouraged to wear their uniforms to church on the Sunday before Veterans Day. No veterans would be recognized on the Sunday before Veterans Day. I would instead briefly explain its origin as Armistice Day, and talk about the folly of World War I and how the United States was led into it by a sorry excuse for a Christian named Woodrow Wilson. Not only would I not introduce to the church any young person in the congregation who joined the military, I would actively persuade them from joining. As a pastor, I would be disappointed and ashamed if any young person in my congregation joined the military. There would be no prayers for the troops to be kept out of harm’s way while they defend our freedoms. There would instead be prayers that the troops didn’t harm anyone in an unjust war and that they would come home from foreign military interventions and overseas bases.

I don’t get very many invitations to speak in churches. Now you know seven reasons why.

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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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The legislature of the state of Colorado recently passed, and the governor signed into law, a bill to repeal an antiquated state law that criminalized adultery. The only thing worse than such a dumb law is an even dumber preacher who bemoans its repeal.

Colorado House Bill 13-1166 repeals two sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Section 18-6-501, on adultery: "Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person’s spouse is adultery, which is prohibited," and section 18-7-208, on promoting sexual immorality:

Any person who, for pecuniary gain, furnishes or makes available to another person any facility, knowing that the same is to be used for or in aid of sexual intercourse between persons who are not husband and wife, or for or in aid of deviate sexual intercourse, or who advertises in any manner that he furnishes or is willing to furnish or make available any such facility for such purposes, commits promoting sexual immorality.

Although adultery was illegal, no criminal penalty was specified. However, promoting sexual immorality was a class 2 misdemeanor.

The bill was introduced on January 30 in the Colorado House and on March 13 in the Colorado Senate. It passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-3 and the full House by a vote of 37-26. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 3-2 and the full Senate by a vote of 23-10. It was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on March 22. The bill takes effect on August 7.

Every "no" vote was a Republican vote. And only 4 Republicans out of 40 in the legislature voted in favor of the repeal bill. Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg opposed the bill, arguing that the law is not archaic and that moral standards continue to be important.

I may not agree with anything else that Denver Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, an original supporter of the repeal bill, ever said or ever will say, but this comment he made about the bill is right on: "I see it as saying adultery is a matter between a spouse and his conscience and his God, but not his local sheriff."

Laws that criminalize adultery or "promoting sexual immorality" are dumb laws. There is no other way to describe them. As legal scholar Jonathan Turley said in 2011 when a similar attempt at repeal failed: "These laws harken back to an earlier period, where a majority of citizens claimed the right to impose their values and morals on their neighbors. The notion of a government policing immorality runs against the grain of our constitutional system. That is more often associated with countries like Iran, where morality police roam the streets." It is ridiculous to say, as Jessica Haverkate, director of Colorado Family Action, a political arm of Focus on the Family, did in 2011 that repealing the adultery law encourages "the moral decay of our society." Sorry, Jessica, but the morals of society have already decayed. And no one in Colorado who wanted to commit adultery was deterred by any dumb law against adultery. Laws that legislate morality are not what keep morality from decaying. If this were so, then no adultery would have taken place in Colorado during the last century.

The only thing dumber than a dumb law is a dumb preacher who defends it.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler appears to be an intelligent man. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a Th.M. and a Ph.D. (in systematic and historical theology) from the seminary where he is now the president. He also teaches at the seminary and edits its theological journal. Time calls him the "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S." The Chicago Tribune terms him "an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large." Mohler is the author of several books, writes a popular blog, has a daily podcast, has appeared on national news programs, has been widely published, and has lectured at many prestigious institutions.

Back in March, when the Colorado legislature was considering the repeal of its adultery law, Mohler weighed in favor of keeping the law on the books. Explained Mohler:

Throughout most of human history, morality and law were united and in agreement when it came to the reality of adultery and the larger context of sexual immorality. Laws criminalizing adultery were adopted because the society believed that marriage was central to its own existence and flourishing, and that adultery represented a dagger struck at the heart of the society, as well as the heart of marriage.

Marriage was not considered merely a private arrangement. Every society regulates marriage, and most have adopted clear and punitive sanctions against adultery. But the moral and cultural revolutions of the past several decades have shifted the meaning of marriage from a public institution to a private contract.

Mohler criticizes the aforementioned Colorado legislator Daniel Kagan for saying:

Adultery is a matter between a person and their spouse and their conscience and their minister, but not between a person and the full enforcement of the state of Colorado. Let’s keep the police out of our bedrooms.

Although acknowledging that "the law in Colorado criminalizes adultery, but includes no penalty," Mohler likes the law because it "has been, at a bare minimum, a reminder of the public nature of marriage and the societal threat of adultery."

Some observations.

Governments at all levels – federal, state, and local – have too many laws. There are thousands of dumb and illegitimate laws that should be repealed by all levels of government. We should rejoice when any of these laws are repealed.

If a law is legitimate, then its purpose is never to make a statement or serve as a reminder of anything. The purpose of any legitimate law – those that criminalize aggression against one’s person or property and protect people from the violence and fraud of others – is to punish genuine criminal activity. A law without a penalty for violating it is no law at all; it is merely a suggestion.

The fact that throughout human history rulers and government bureaucrats have been nanny statists and puritanical busybodies that wanted to unite law and their concept of morality is a historical fact, but it is certainly not the way things ought to be – not if we are to have a free society.

Laws that criminalize activities that voluntarily take place behind closed doors are unenforceable. An unenforceable law is no law at all. Again, it is merely a suggestion.

Every crime needs a victim, not a potential victim, a possible victim, or a supposed victim, but an actual victim who suffers actual harm or loss. This means that over 90 percent of all federal and state laws are bogus.

Moral crusades of the nanny state fail to distinguish between vices and crimes. As the 19th-century classical-liberal political philosopher Lysander Spooner explained it:

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property – no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property.

To be a crime, adds Spooner, there must exist criminal intent to invade the person or property of another. But vices are not engaged in with criminal intent. A man practices a vice "for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others."

And finally, there is no support in the New Testament for the idea that Christians should seek legislation that would criminalize immoral behavior. For Baptist Christians like myself and Mohler, the New Testament is our rule for faith and life. Christians are making a grave mistake when they look to the state to legislate morality. Why would they even think of looking to the state to enforce their moral code? The actions of the state are the greatest examples of immoral behavior that one could possibly think of. The state exists only by stealing and killing, and then lying about it. It is not the purpose of Christianity to use force or the threat of force to keep people from sinning. Christians who are quick to criticize Islamic countries for prescribing and proscribing all manner of behavior are very inconsistent when they support the same thing here.

Let me be perfectly clear: I think adultery is always wrong. I believe it is immoral. I consider it to be a grave sin. But it is neither my business nor the business of government to keep people from bad habits, vice, or immoral activities that take place between consenting adults.

If Mohler wants adultery laws to be enforced he should volunteer to be the first to have cameras installed in his home, office, and car (with full NSA surveillance everywhere else), and be taxed to support the army of bureaucrats it will take to monitor the cameras to make sure he doesn’t commit adultery.

Laws against adultery are not what deter people in Colorado or other states from committing adultery. Religion, morality, fear, reputation, and/or family might serve as deterrents, but not dumb laws.

I don’t know if my state of Florida has an antiquated state law against adultery that is not enforced, but whether such a law exists or whether such a law is enforced has no bearing whatsoever on why I choose to be faithful to my wife.

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http://cdn.politicaloutcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Golden-Calf-Painting.jpgThis past Memorial Day brought forth the usual military idolatry. What makes it worse, though, is that this military idolatry is so rampant among Christians and in churches.

And just how can a Christian know if he is guilty of military idolatry? Simple.

Christian, you might be guilty of military idolatry:

  • If you send a care package to a U.S. soldier, but not to a missionary.
  • If you thank a veteran for his service, but not a pastor, priest, deacon, or minister.
  • If you can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but not the Ten Commandments.
  • If you value serving your country more than serving your fellowman.
  • If you sing the National Anthem at a sporting event with more enthusiasm than you sing a hymn in church.
  • If government welfare spending bothers you, but not government military spending.
  • If anti-war rallies make you mad, but cadences recited in basic training don’t make you blush.
  • If you shed more tears singing patriotic hymns than hymns of worship about the person and work of Christ.
  • If you get more excited about U.S. soldiers killing Muslims overseas than U.S. missionaries preaching the Gospel to them.
  • If you pray for the troops more than you pray for the furtherance of the Gospel.
  • If you can sing patriotic songs without looking at a song book, but have to look at one to sing hymns of worship.
  • If you compare the death of a U.S. solider killed in combat to the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.
  • If the murder of American unborn children by American doctors upsets you more than the murder of foreign children and adults by American soldiers.

And how can a Christian know if his church is guilty of military idolatry? This also is simple.

Christian, your church might be guilty of military idolatry:

  • If it asks veterans to wear their military uniforms to church on the Sunday before a national holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day.
  • If it applauds young men who announce their intentions to join the military with more fervor than it applauds young men who announce their intentions to study for the ministry.
  • If it has the members recite the Pledge of Allegiance in church on the Sunday before a national holiday.
  • If it sends more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries.
  • If it decorates the grounds and buildings with flags on Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, and the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day.
  • If it has special military-appreciation Sundays.
  • If it has the members sing patriotic songs on the Sunday before a national holiday.
  • If it has the members sing the blasphemous "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at any church service.
  • If the sign in front of the church on the Sunday before a national holiday says that as the soldier gave his life for your freedom so Christ gave his life for your soul.
  • If it welcomes home U.S. soldiers from war with more enthusiasm than it welcomes home missionaries from foreign fields.
  • If it recognizes veterans in church on the Sunday before a national holiday.
  • If it offers up more prayers for U.S. troops to be kept out of harm’s way than for foreigners to be kept safe from U.S. bombs and bullets.
  • If it justifies Christians serving in the military because the Bible mentions soldiers.

It is no longer safe for non-imperial Christians who think the state should be separated from the church to attend church on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day. And woe be unto them if the Fourth of July or Veterans Day falls on a Sunday!

Christians, it is time to slay the golden calf of military idolatry and demilitarize our churches.

Originally appeared on LewRockwell.com on June 10, 2013.

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