Archive for culture

Oct
21

Militarism in American Churches

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Since the United States launched the unnecessary, immoral, unjust, and senseless war in Iraq in 2003, the Christian blasphemy occurring in churches has increased ten-fold. Even as the many lies of George W. Bush have been exposed over the years, so the blasphemy has continued unabated.

Although many have e-mailed me (and especially after attending church on the Sunday before a national holiday) with reports of the blasphemy that they have witnessed in their churches, I have seen most of it personally.

What blasphemy am I talking about? Not the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance during church services, which makes me nauseated. Not churches letting their county governments use their facilities as polling places, which is even worse than churches encouraging Christians to vote Republican, as bad as that is. Not the placing of hundreds of small American flags around the church property, of which purchasing these flags is the biggest waste of the offerings of church members I have ever seen. Not the putting of an image of the American flag on the cover of the church bulletin, which is a colossal waste of expensive red and blue toner. Not the adding of more flags inside the church building than are normally on display (believe it or not, some churches always display more than one flag), as if having one flag wasn’t bad enough. Not the flying of a foreign flag in church, a flag that represents the denial of Christianity. Not the wearing of an American flag lapel pin, or even worse, a cross and flag lapel pin. Not the singing of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, although that is certainly about the most blasphemous thing that could be sung in a church. And not the singing of hymns of worship to the state, although that is blasphemous enough.

I am referring to the military blasphemy that takes place, not just on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July, Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Patriots Day (Sept. 11), but also on special “military appreciation” days that some churches designate, as if Americans don’t already appreciate the military enough.

Here is some of the military blasphemy that I have personally witnessed, and/or received on good authority, on the Sunday of, the Sunday before, or the Sunday after one of the above days, which are all really just “military appreciation days”:

  • Active duty military or veterans wearing their uniforms to church
  • Special prayers for “the troops” (but never for their victims) over and above the usual nonsense
  • Recognizing active duty military personnel and veterans
  • Having active duty military personnel and veterans stand
  • Thunderous applause after active duty military personnel and veterans stand
  • The pianist playing the song of each branch of the military during the offering
  • Military chaplains speaking
  • Special military guest speakers who aren’t chaplains
  • Military color guard walking down the main aisle at the beginning of the church service
  • Church bulletins with a list of all the veterans in the church
  • Church signs with statements about U.S. troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins
  • Church signs enjoining us to pray for the troops
  • Recognition of some young person who has announced his (or her) intention to join the military
  • Thunderous applause after the recognition of some young person who is going to join the military
  • Video presentations about World War II played during the Sunday morning worship service
  • Video tributes to the troops played during the Sunday morning worship service

Once, on just an ordinary, regular Sunday, I saw a pastor recognize and have stand some visiting Marine who wore his uniform to church. And it still makes me nauseated when I think of the Marine Corps recruiting posters that a reader of mine saw on the walls of a boys Sunday School classroom.

“My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).

These things are blasphemous. They are a disgrace to the Lord. They drive non-believers from Christianity. They are an assault on the Blessed Trinity. They are a blight on Christianity. They are an affront to the Saviour. They are anti-scriptural. They are indicative of the sorry state of many evangelical churches today. They are the most heinous examples of the world taking over the church. They break down the wall of separation of church and state. They make a mockery of New Testament Christianity.

Why do these things happen? I put most of the blame on pastors (or bishops, priests, elders, ministers, or church leaders) who have failed to discern the truth themselves so they can educate their congregations. There are, of course, some exceptions, but broadly stated, there are two classes of pastors.

First there is the armchair warrior, evangelical warvangelical, bloodthirsty warmonger, reich-wing nationalist, American exceptionalist, red-state fascist, imperial Christian, pro-lifer for mass murder who moonlights as an apologist for the Republican Party.

Then there is the Christian Coalition moralist, just war theorist, values voter, religious rightist, God and country bumpkin, Pledge reciting, patriotic hymn singing, cross and flag lapel wearer who is just an ignorant blind leader of the blind.

Those in the first group might be ignorant as well, but the main problem they have is that they are evil. This second group makes up the majority. Their ignorance might be colossal, it might be simple, it might even be willful, but their main problem is that they are just ignorant. They are ignorant of history, primitive Christianity, U.S. foreign policy, the true nature of the Republican Party, the U.S. government, the U.S. military, and of course, their own Bible.

This is why they—

  • Thought that the war in Iraq was in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.
  • Believed that Saddam Hussein was another Hitler.
  • Supposed that Iraq was a threat to the United States.
  • Saw the war in Iraq as a modern-day crusade against Islam.
  • Assumed that the United States needed to protect Israel from Iraq.
  • Viewed Bush as a messiah figure.

And perhaps some of them still think, believe, suppose, see, assume, and view these things. Most of them are certainly still guilty of:

  • Equating the Republican Party with the party of God.
  • Blindly following the conservative movement.
  • Deeming the state to be a divine institution instead of a lying, stealing, and killing machine.
  • Holding a “my country right or wrong” attitude.
  • Failing to separate the divine sanction of war against the enemies of God in the Old Testament from the New Testament ethic that taught otherwise.
  • Reading too much into the mention of soldiers in the New Testament.

And of course, being in love with the military.

What contributes to such sustained, profound, and widespread ignorance?

  • Believing government propaganda.
  • Believing military propaganda.
  • Believing Republican Party propaganda.
  • Watching Fox News.
  • Listening to conservative pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Bill O’Reilly.

What is the antidote for all of this? The simplest one I know of is this: My book War, Christianity, and the State and a daily dose of LewRockwell.com.

The pastors in the first group need to be criticized, derided, and castigated. They are hopeless. Those in the second group need to be instructed, exposed to the truth, and educated. There is hope for them.

This military blasphemy must cease. Our churches must be demilitarized. I will keep writing. You do what you can to educate the leaders of your church.

Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on October 14, 2014.

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Conservatives and libertarians have a precarious relationship. On the surface, they appear to agree on some issues, but once you dig a little deeper, vast philosophical differences quickly become evident.

To get votes and support, Conservatives sometimes spout libertarian rhetoric, claim they are “libertarian leaning,” and—their favorite pastime—criticize liberals. The truth, however, is that conservatives are bitter opponents of libertarianism, lie incessantly, and are no better than liberals on most issues.

Yet, the case of public schooling is one where conservatives and libertarians appear to have some common concerns.

Liberals love public education. And especially when it promotes an agenda of diversity, environmentalism, political correctness, inclusivism, socialism, relativism, interventionism, statism, gun control, and LGBT causes. But like libertarians, most conservatives regularly criticize public education.

Conservatives cite the drop in SAT scores. They talk about the dumbing down of our kids. They vehemently express their opposition to Common Core. They talk about high schools graduating functional illiterates. They bewail the decline in discipline and standards. They bemoan the violence that occurs in schools. They are aghast at the increasing number of teachers caught having sexual relationships with students. They expose the anti-Christian bias that exists in many public schools. They express their opposition to the employment of gay teachers. They criticize the teaching of evolution as an established fact. They lament the elimination of prayer and Bible reading in schools. They denounce the power of the teachers’ unions. They condemn school-based “health clinics” for being pro-abortion. They complain about the public schools pushing a liberal agenda. They denounce the bureaucracy in the federal Department of Education.

Although libertarians may point out some of these very things, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the libertarian case against public schools. The libertarian case is a simple one. Libertarians oppose public schools because they are government schools. It doesn’t matter if none of the evils of public schools mentioned above even exist. It is simply not the proper role of government to educate children. Neither is it the proper role of government to force Americans to pay for the education of their children in a public school or to pay for the education of the children of other Americans. It is an illegitimate purpose of government to have anything to do with the education of anyone’s children. It is the responsibility of parents to educate their children. How they choose to do that is entirely up to them, but public schooling shouldn’t even be an option. Read More→

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Jul
09

The Cult of Statism

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This guest post is by Rev. Donald Ehrke. He is a Libertarian, a former GOP campaign manager, and ordained minister living in Alexandria, Virginia. Many thanks to Donald for his excellent work! For guest post opportunities, please use the LCC Contact Page.

“You have heard that is was said… But I tell you…” (Matthew 5: 21-22).  When reading the New Testament, it is helpful to recall that Jesus was a transformational teacher – people were astounded by what he said and did.  The Sermon on the Mount is itself a collection of challenges to assumed beliefs – “You have heard…But I tell you…”  An encounter with the Pharisees further demonstrates Jesus’ willingness to confront assumptions.  Seeing Jesus eat with Matthew and his friends the Pharisees asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Overhearing the question, Jesus responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9: 11-12). To the modern reader, Jesus’ response is noteworthy but not remarkable.  His answer demonstrates God’s desire to call the lost to salvation; the self-assured and self-righteous have (they believe) little need for mercy.  This insight offers the foundation of Law and Gospel preaching.  Jesus’ words, however, may not be astonishing to today’s Christian because we have grown accustomed to the analogy of Jesus as the “Great Physician.”

In their day, however, the Pharisees would have interpreted Jesus’ words according to Old Testament Law; their education would have alerted them to the meaning of His response. As Old Testament experts the Pharisees would recall Deuteronomy 32: 39, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”  While in Capernaum, Jesus had cured people, He had forgiven sins, and now He claimed to be the physician who healed.  The Pharisees would have recognized that Jesus was claiming the authority of God.

Christians, naturally, accept God’s authority.  We recognize that He – as Creator – has the right to produce or extinguish life; God may grant or withhold healing according to His will.  Trusting in His divine will, we both offer God our prayers and accept His response.  Jesus remains the Great Physician.

Mankind, nevertheless, often seeks to usurp God’s authority.  The first sin, in fact, was premised on the pledge that eating the forbidden fruit one would make one “like God” (Genesis 3: 5). Mankind’s desire to be God was acted upon again when Cain killed Abel – man demonstrated that he, like God, could end life.  In truth, the Old Testament has many examples of mankind trying to be a god – the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, the construction of the Golden Calf – are only a few instances of man’s proud attempts to usurp God’s authority.

Today, cults may best represent mankind’s attempt to be a god.  Rather than preaching of freedom from sin and salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, cults teach control.  Cults must control believers to seize godlike authority.  Cult members have exclusive, intimate relationships with one another because, they are told, these are the only people one can trust.  In this manner, members become isolated and dependent upon the cult.  Cult members are commanded to rely on the cult’s leader, even when he or she isn’t personally obeying cult rules.  More, charismatic leaders develop a “cult of personality” and twist God’s word to encourage it.  Leaders brainwash cult members into supposing that the cult is unique and that it possesses a special, elite mission.  The individuality of cult members is crushed, their wealth stolen, and their thoughts controlled all to the glory of the group and its leadership.  Loyalty is not requested, it is demanded.

Christians should be cognizant of any human attempt to steal God’s authority.  We must challenge – as Christ did – those who twist God’s word in order to promote themselves.  We have been warned that these “anti-Christs” would appear in the church (2 Thessalonians 2: 4, 1 John 2: 18) and we should assume that many have emerged.

Likewise, the secular world owns its version of the cult and its presence deserves our attention and challenge.  Statists share the goal of cultists – control.  Statists and cultists create dependency.  Statists and cultists promote “group think” and demonize non-conformists.  Statists and cultists glorify their leaders.  Statists and cultists preach exceptionalism.  Statists and cultists employ intimidation to extract obedience.  The tactics employed by statists and cultists so closely resemble one another that they are often indistinguishable.

Statists also seek to usurp the authority of God by mirroring His attributes.  God is omniscient; the statist supports state surveillance – they must know what we’re reading, writing, or speaking.  God is omnipresent; the statist wants to enter our home to tell us what light bulb to use and into our schools to tell us what to serve for lunch.  God is beneficent; the statist wants all good things to come from the state (healthcare, welfare, jobs, etc.).  God is omnipotent; the statist desires unlimited central authority.  God is sovereign; the statist wishes to commit aggression against his fellow man.  The statist wishes that the state, not God, was our refuge.

Occasionally people will ask whether a Christian can be libertarian.  They may question whether a Christian can place his or her Bible on their library bookshelf next to “Atlas Shrugged” (see The Soul of Atlas for more on that).   Fellow Christians attempt to discern whether free markets and free thinking are inherently incompatible with Christian theology.  

An alternate question is to ask whether a Christian could be anything but libertarian.  This response will be received as conceited and close-minded, so one would not normally apply it.  Nevertheless, freedom and Christianity are undeniably connected.  We are uniquely positioned to understand how limits to Christian freedom and God’s authority to liberate us from sin are threatened by cultist thinking.  Christians know what an “anti-Christ” looks like – we can detect counterfeit saviors.

Our unique position also affords us the opportunity to better detect statist philosophy and activity.  While many citizens unwittingly support statist schemes under the guise of “progressivism” or “conservatism” the libertarian Christian recognizes counterfeit liberty when he or she sees it.

Jesus preached a transformational message that challenged Pharisaical authority.  He challenged – at great risk – the presumptions of mankind.  Libertarian Christians can be encouraged by His example.  Both our churches and communities can be transformed.  Perhaps we can begin by professing that God is God and that God set man free.

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LI-07-Hobby-LobbyIn September 2012, the privately held retail store Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the US federal government regarding new regulations in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring that employer insurance cover emergency contraceptives. They argue that they have a First Amendment right not to follow such a regulation.

While this is indeed case with respect to the US Constitution, the libertarian case against such mandates covers more fundamental ground than just religious expression. It is also more comprehensive because it addresses the core of the issue: government intervention in business and in personal lives.

You can read article after article about the whole issue, and I do not want to rehash everything because it would be a waste of your time. Still, what can a Christian libertarian say about this issue? To break through the confusion and state the case quickly and succinctly, this is the plumbline libertarian position on Hobby Lobby and these health care mandates:

  1. All interventionism in health care by the state is bad.* The ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. should all be repealed and shut down permanently.
  2. All interventionism in business by the state is bad.* The government’s job, if it ought to have a job at all, is not “consumer protection” or “ensuring fair play” but rather protecting individual rights. The regulatory, bureaucratic state is a monstrous evil.
  3. Hobby Lobby is within its rights to put forward terms of employment however they wish. Employment by an employer is voluntary, and employees can choose voluntarily to accept the terms or not.
  4. Hobby Lobby ought to win their lawsuit against the US federal government. The government is the aggressor here, and should get out of the way.

* Note: A rights violation committed by a health care provider or other business is still a rights violation and is treated as such. Clearly, suggesting interventionism is bad does not mean that rights violations are ignored.

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Feb
13

The System Built on Greed

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Guest post by C. Jay Engel of the Reformed Libertarian.

The anti-free market proclamations from the left (and even sometimes the right) come in all shapes and sizes.  Among the more common of these proclamations is the one that I heard yesterday.  As far as I can remember, this is what was said by the individual (to her friend) next to me.  “Capitalism is problematic because it is an entire system based on greed.  If we want a healthy society, we should not seek to adopt such a system.  We need a system that is based on cooperation and love.”  That capitalism is a system built on greed is a claim that is often heard and the theme has been pushed at every level of society; from the politicians, the educators, the commentators, the media, and the average Joe.

It is immediately clear that there is a dichotomy here between cooperation and capitalism, a dichotomy that should immediately raise the red flags of the libertarian.  After all, aren’t we always saying that the economy is most ethical when it is completely voluntary?  And does not voluntary interaction and exchange form the basis for capitalism?  The problem sits in the misunderstanding of the very nature of (free market) capitalism.  This capitalism is not the same as the fascist system we have today.  The American system of corporatism, that has largely existed since the nineteenth century, should never be confused with the free market.

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