Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who makes more sense?

I am a little weary of so much ridicule of Sarah Palin's interview bungles. I am not a big fan of her or of John McCain. She has clearly struggled to keep a train of thought during interviews. However, they are closer to my political philosophy and I will vote for them. (I like them a lot better than Obama and Biden.)

I am curious why Joe Biden gets off scot free. Who was President when the stock market crashed in 1929? (Hint: Theme song from All in the Family) When did Presidents begin to speak to the American people via the television? (Hint: it was after it was invented.) Look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUdQ5OjGXL0<

[Note: I did not mention that Obama is committed to visit every state in the union. He says he has been to 57 of them aready. Anybody could make this kind of mistake. I know; I'm an extemporaneous preacher. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws ]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Problem with the Appeal to the Middle Class

I recently told a friend I had no plans to criticize Obama personally. I wanted to address the issues and leave personal attacks out of the discussion. I think he believes he has a better plan for the good of the majority of Americans. I don’t think his plan will work. I am frustrated that his approach seems to be to pit the classes against each other.

It appears to me that Barack Obama and the Democrats are promoting an emotional/psychological form of class warfare in an attempt to get elected. The day after the debate they ran an ad asking what words were missing from McCain during the debate, the answer “middle class.” Obama had used the phrase many times. He wants us to believe he is the only one concerned about us, the middle class. The more significant question is why was there little or no reference by either candidate to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, widows, orphans, or the elderly?

Obama’s favorite targets for attack (other than John McCain) are big businesses, their greedy executives, and the greedy rich people who work on Wall Street; they all need to pay more taxes. Think about it; he sees himself as Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the ... middle class. He promises to keep jobs in America. How can he do that by raising taxes on businesses? Companies take jobs to other countries because it is cheaper to manufacture there. Primarily, materials are cheaper, or labor is cheaper, or taxes are cheaper, or a combination of the three. The one factor our government can most directly control is taxes. In short, raise taxes on business, send jobs elsewhere.

The other problem is that Obama does not seem to recognize that we all own stock in those big businesses, or at least 75% of Americans own stock in them (granted, a figure I heard on TV). Most of us don’t think of ourselves as stock holders but we are, mostly through our retirement funds. Attacks on big business are attacks on our selves. This doesn't even address the most direct affect of taxing businesses; taxes are passed on to the consumer by way of higher prices.

Yes, the pay of some executives is obscene, but not criminal. The stock holders should rise up and replace the Boards of those companies insisting that executive pay be appropriate to the value of their service. The government should not be setting pay scales for executives. If they can do that, they can set all of our salaries. [I don’t object to limiting salaries for those companies that might be bailed out in this current crises; we the people are becoming major stock holders and have a right to expect such restrictions.]

My first point is simply that we need big businesses (and small business) to prosper so that we can all prosper. The greedy people on Wall Street are for the most part no more greedy than those of us who tried to take advantage of the inflation of real estate prices and over extended our debt structure. My second point is that we the people as consumers and stockholders should exercise our voice to influence business practices, something I have personally failed to do.

We need a President who can bring us together without taking us apart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why I am a Republican - Part VI - The End

Earlier I argued “civil government should be limited to (1) ensuring the safety and security of the nation’s citizens, (2) protecting individuals and minority groups from abuse, i.e., ensuring their rights, and (3) providing the services the citizens assign to it.” This statement fails to fully address the role of government in economic matters and it fails to cover some aspects of the role of a federal government in a republic. In economics I recognize the role of the federal government in establishing a sound financial currency and ensuring a just system of interstate commerce. In this age, this later issue requires oversight of a complex national economic system. In short, the federal government must mediate relationships between the various states and protect the citizens from economic abuse.

I further stated “We can best achieve our national potential by helping each member of our society achieve their fullest human potential; this requires (1) a sense of personal responsibility for one’s future, and (2) hope that one can attain to an abundant life.” For me this is the bottom line of distinction between conservative and liberal philosophies. How can we best achieve peace and prosperity for everyone? How can we maintain a balance of personal responsibility with government assistance? As a conservative I believe our society has a responsibility to provide for the needs of those who cannot provide for themselves, i.e., the disabled. When economic problems make it impossible for citizens to work, the government (cooperating on various levels) has a responsibility to assist them in finding gainful employment. However, I am opposed to extended welfare for those who are able to work; I consider subsidizing adult (re-)education focused on employment a good investment in society’s future; I support workfare or public works programs that provide the unemployed temporary employment at near market wages on projects for the public good (highway construction, shelving books in the library, teaching in under-served schools, mentoring youth, etc., the options are limitless).

On healthcare, I favor free enterprise as the base model. Personal choice should be protected. However, I believe we have a responsibility through our government to ensure everyone has access to health-care and that is best achieved through universal access to health insurance. I prefer a model that mandates that individuals purchase insurance over a model that gives universal medical insurance or universal direct healthcare to individuals. While I am hesitant to endorse a law requiring everyone to purchase insurance, I recognize we have already entered into an age where basic healthcare is considered a human right, i.e., we have laws making emergency healthcare available to all. I would therefore endorse a mandatory insurance law on grounds similar to state mandated liability insurance for drivers and this on the basis of protecting the innocent, i.e., the principle of justice. It can thus be argued that we have a moral obligation to ensure we do not accrue medical debts we cannot pay and therefore insurance is a civil responsibility. In short, require everyone to have minimal medical insurance with the government providing assistance for those who cannot afford it. In any case, parents should be required to provide insurance for their children with the government making up the necessary gap in funding. I am of course opposed to socialized medicine.

On international relations, I prefer a model of cooperation and support. We have a moral obligation to promote democracy, justice, and the general well being of all. Our aid to other countries should be modeled on the suggestions I have given for domestic aid, integrated with the principle of self-responsibility. We should not act militarily without (1) having first been attacked, or (2) broad international support, with (3) undeniable evidence of gross injustice and human suffering, with the only exception being irrefutable evidence of an imminent attack on the USA or her allies. In other words, I am generally opposed to war as contrary to the Word of God and serving as a platform for gross evil. I allow for violence only when necessary for defense of self or others; nations can work together to police rogue states that threaten peace or act immorally toward their own citizens (think the killing fields of Cambodia, or present day Somalia).

With this, I end this series. No doubt I have rambled and failed to close all the loops. I will probably make other comments on politics this election season and beyond. Some seem to think I have written this series to try to convert them to my political views. However, my purpose has been to simply explain why I am a Republican. Many people I greatly love and respect, people who share my religious beliefs and social concerns, are Democrats or independents who usually vote for the ticket of the Democrats. For the most part they have not asked me why I am a Republican. Well, I have a deep psychological need to be understood (grounded in a childhood speech impediment no doubt), in this case to be accepted as a person who has seriously attempted to integrate his faith with his political philosophy. I am a holiness-Pentecostal follower of Christ; I am committed to social justice; I abhor idolatrous patriotism – the nation should not be worshipped or in any way equated with Christ or His Kingdom; I am committed to being a good citizen as a Christian duty; in my opinion the United States of America is the greatest country in the history of humanity but not free of guilt; I believe we can be better – God expects us to be better; I believe the conservative political philosophy is the best means of holding all of these together, serving the needs of all citizens, and achieving our greatest national potential. My goal in things political is not to enlarge the rolls of the Republican Party; it is to serve the cause of Christ by promoting the common good. In this I trust I bear witness to the gracious presence of God among and within all His creation and our need for salvation through His Son.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cheryl's Silence

Several people have asked me about Cheryl's silence on this blog. Currently she is in the mountains working on a writing project. I will pass on to her the desires of others for her to re-enter the discussion. Feel free to contact her personally with your request.

As for me, I have been giving thought to my final entry in this series. I may follow that with some thoughts on the current race for President.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why I am a Republican - Part V

So, why am I a Republican? In brief, we have few options. If we believe we should participate in the political process we can think of ourselves as independent/non-aligned or we can identify with one of the two major political parties. I have argued we should not vote according to single issues and I have implied we should not vote for individual candidates. Either of these approaches leaves us drifting, carried along by immanent concerns and surface issues. Building a better country requires that we select a course and follow it. We should align ourselves with the party that best reflects our core values and our beliefs about humanity and civil government. We should vote for the party that shares our vision of what constitutes the best society.

I am a Republican because I am a conservative, not a liberal. As I have argued the conservative philosophy best represents my core beliefs: human nature, sin, social values, etc. I do not believe the Republican Party has all the answers. In fact, I believe it is often wrong. I do not believe the Democrat Party is always wrong. However, there is a fundamental difference in the direction they would take us as a nation. The conservative view ties our future to our past and in particular to the values of the founders of our great nation. The liberal view leaves the future open to the capricious imaginations of people without grounding in any truth beyond ourselves. I do not believe Republicans are more righteous than democrats. I do not believe Democrats are not personally guided by their faith and values. I simply believe the liberal philosophy that guides the Democrat Party is in its essence a form of secular humanism that will ultimately lead to the destruction of our nation. The conservative philosophy of the Republicans is grounded in Christian humanism that asserts the potential of people and nations while holding to a faith in God as prerequisite for achieving that potential.

I am not a conservative because I desire to impose my conservative views on others. In fact the core values of the founders of America that I desire to conserve center on a commitment to the precept of personal liberty. I do not believe the founders of America were infallible; we can disagree with them and amend our constitution to reflect our beliefs, but we do have a covenant with them and with our progeny to make those changes only with careful deliberation.

I cannot be a liberal in part because I am convinced the liberal philosophy inherently places the desires of the majority in conflict with the worth and dignity of the minority and the individual. This conflict is presently seen in the Democratic oft expressed concern for the middle class. This appeal fosters class warfare between the middle class and the wealthy, or at the very least it villainizes as greedy those who have accumulated wealth (greed is an equal opportunity sin common to all classes of society). Ironically, this conflict ignores the needs and dignity of the members of the so called lower class and thus becomes an invisible assault on them. In spite of a desire for justice (albeit focused on economic justice), liberalism inevitably leads to injustice. Due to the nature to sin, humans blame their problems on others. Politicians of all stripes profit through the blame game. It seems to me, liberalism has inherent within a special inclination to blame. (Granted Republicans blame big government and liberals, and Democrats include in their list big business and conservatives.)

I believe I have one more Part to write. Stay tuned. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I am a Republican - Part IV

What Kind of Conservative?
It is generally thought there are two types of conservatives: fiscal and social. Fiscal conservatives focus on economic policy. They believe in free market capitalism and consider government regulations on business to ultimately serve only to hinder growth. Regulations may provide an illusion of stability, but the market functions best when it is allowed to correct itself. Their mantra includes “lower taxes and deregulate.”

Social conservatives focus on the preservation of “traditional values.” They lament things like the legalization of abortion, “homosexual rights,” and the removal of the Bible and prayer from public life. Their principle hope is in the appointment of conservative judges whose legal philosophy stresses strict interpretation of the U. S. Constitution; their mantra is “remove judges who legislate from the bench.” Most social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives.

There are problems with both approaches to conservatism as they have been expressed in recent years. When fiscal conservatism is void of concern for social/moral issues it becomes a functional materialism. It appears to assume that the greatest good is wealth; money is the solution to all problems. Here it disagrees with liberalism only in approach to the distribution of wealth. Liberalism believes the government has a responsibility to redistribute wealth; fiscal conservatives believe strict capitalism is the best approach to the distribution of wealth. According to the Federalist Papers, which provided the guiding philosophy for the founders of American government, capitalism is founded on the acknowledgement of the universal sin of greed. Everyone has desires for material possessions; the best economy is one that works with greed, not against it. Greed is the best motivator for the exchange of goods and services. In capitalism, everyone is allowed to exchange what they have for what they want. The role of government is to stay out of the way and intervene only when the powerful use their power to abuse the less powerful. Fiscal conservatism that fails to build on values reduces human rights to the right of ownership.

Social conservatives offer a different set of challenges. Social conservatism can be traced back to what is known as Northern Humanism (Northern Renaissance) beginning in the late fifteenth century. Unlike Southern Humanism which had focused on art, music, and personal enlightenment, Northern Humanism focused on rediscovering and appropriating the truths of ancient Western civilization. The quest was for social transformation, to build nations suitable for the kingdom of God and the core conviction was that the road map to Christian civilization had been drawn in classical Greece, Rome and Israel. The emphasis was on ancient literature (and therefore classic languages) and the need for universal literacy. In other words the values that should guide us into the future have been revealed in the past.

One problem with modern social conservatism is a nearsighted backward view of life. The truths and values that need preservation are not necessarily the truisms passed on to us by our parents. Conservatism that seeks merely to keep social mores static is not true conservatism. Such efforts are stuck in the near past without an impetus for social transformation; they are reactionary rather than proactive. The ideal they propose is a mere recapitulation of comfortable social patterns. The conservatism that is needed is one that is driven to build a better future by continually applying the lessons of the past. The point is not to resist change but rather to pursue change worthy of gifts we have inherited. The standards by which we must measure ourselves have long been given but require ongoing interpretation (in contrast with the liberal/progressive philosophy that calls upon every generation to establish its own standards). This conservatism challenges us to discover truth and live out of it.

Another problem with modern social conservatism is that it fails to articulate and consistently apply its values (a problem shared with liberalism). This shortcoming flows out of the nearsightedness of focus. As noted earlier, “pro-life” needs to be equally applied to all aspects of human life. Social conservatism needs to take time to clarify the core values that must guide society and resist knee jerk reactions to hot-button issues. For example, conservatives must make a non-negotiable commitment to justice-for-all and proceed to correct injustices wherever they appear. (Granted not everyone will agree when an event/condition is unjust, all should agree to work toward justice.)

What we need is a conservatism that is proactive about building a better society, one that values fiscal restraint, but approaches material resources as being entrusted to individuals for the glory of God and the good of others.
[a little more to come]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why I am a Republican -- Part III

One reason I am not a liberal is that I disagree with the fundamental assumptions of liberalism as I understand them. Liberalism is the product of late nineteenth century pragmatism/progressivism which eliminated the concept of sin as the cause of human suffering and substituted for it a belief that deprivation is the cause of human suffering. The underlying economic assumption of liberalism is social materialism, i.e., access to basic material goods will empower people to address higher order needs and move toward self-actualization. This philosophy presupposes humanity is moving toward a utopian social/economic democracy. Humanity is destined to solve its problems through the liberation of all people from poverty and other dehumanizing forces. Liberation is fundamentally an economic and educational issue, but not education in the classic sense of the liberal arts [“liberal” in the sense of liberating]. Rather, in this model education centers on mastering the application of the scientific method of problem solving to social ills; “truth is what works.” Through this type of “democratic education” [see John Dewey], social evolution can be accelerated. In short, the origins of liberal philosophy implied the path to utopia is paved with the redistribution of wealth and the control of public education. This philosophy gave birth in 1905 to the National Education Association (NEA) which has been at the center of American liberalism every since.

While I believe in the innate goodness of God’s creation, I do not believe progress is hindered principally by the lack of opportunity. Sin is the primary cause of human suffering and the obstacle to progress toward a just society. I believe progress is possible but not inevitable. I do not believe people can be liberated by government provisions alone. Liberty is a gift of God not of government. I believe human goodness is seen in personal responsibility and responsibility begins at home. I believe people can be inspired by their leaders but that participation in solving their own problems is critical to personal development. I believe personal development is the key to the development of society. If we are going to build a better society we must honor every member of society by recognizing their abilities and their responsibilities for improvement. Thus, I support problem-solving methods in education as they encourage students to accept responsibility for their future. But I find them insufficient to create a vision of a better future.

Another reason I am not a liberal is that liberalism simply does not work. I am not only convinced it does not work; I believe the liberal philosophy actually dehumanizes people and tends to lock them into a cycle of dependency. It does this by (2) convincing them they have no responsibility for their situation and (2) creating within them a self-image of dependency.

Having laid out my core arguments against liberalism, I need to now offer a brief critique of conservativism. Conservatives have a tendency to forget their cornerstone commitment (there are truths and values that must be conserved for future generations) and to over emphasize their secondary commitment which is to individual freedom and this at the expense of the needs of the suffering. A primary value in Western civilization for thousands of years is that the powerful have a debt to the powerless to ensure their safety and well-being. Too often conservatives proclaim “a hand-up; not a hand-out” and use it as a slogan to hide unbridled greed. Conservatives are often guilty reducing human values to a few flashpoint issues such as abortion. More grievous than sins of reduction, is the conservative tendency to identify itself with free market capitalism as the holy grail of human happiness. If liberals are guilty of a materialism that emphasizes sharing the wealth as the measure of goodness, many conservatives are equally guilty in their glorification of the hording of wealth. Material possessions are simply the wrong starting point for defining liberty and human wellbeing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I am a Republican -- Part II

[Excuse the run-on sentences. It is a personal weakness, perhaps evidence of the sin nature.]

I am a conservative because I believe there are values and truths that have been entrusted to humanity and that we and every generation have a sacred responsibility to preserve/conserve them for future generations. Among those truths are (1) that humans are created in the image of God, (2) humans are of immeasurable value (because they were created by, exist for, and are valued by God), (3) humans have great abilities/gifts(4) humans have great potential for good (because of God’s abiding grace for all humanity), (5) families are the cornerstone of civilization and must be guarded from external dominance, including government intrusion, (6) freedom is a fundamental right and human responsibility, and (7) that humans are marred by sin which inclines them toward self-centered behavior that is sometimes expressed in abuse of the weak by the powerful.

I am committed to maximizing personal freedom and limiting government. This is a theological concern. I believe in the innate goodness of people, that humanity is in the death-grip of sin, but that our gracious God is continually at work withstanding the power of sin to destroy and extending his life-giving grace to new generations until His Son returns. In other words, people are by design, and by the abiding breath of God, good; sin is a ubiquitous disease that perverts and ultimately destroys the image of God; humans are responsible to God for how they respond to sin and grace. As free moral agents, humans must understand their personal responsibility for their relationships and actions. Human freedom should be constrained only when it infringes on the rights of others.

I believe in communal morality, sin and responsibility. “Nations” will be judged by God with a special emphasis on how they treat widows, orphans, the poor, and aliens in their midst. It is a mistake however to define “nation” by the modern concept of national government. It simply means “peoples.” We will be judged by God for all of our collective actions, whether institutionalized in government bureaucracies or hidden in cultural traits and patterns of behavior. In a democracy we are collectively responsible for the behavior of our government.

Governments are comprised of people who bring to government the good and evil of human nature. But governments are also dynamic systems that take on traits of good and evil. They are powers for righteousness and evil. Big government is sinful when it robs people of their humanity by depersonalizing human relationships which in turn gives greater room for sin to work. Governments should be held to the standards of the core values of human tradition, especially justice and freedom. Governments must never presume to be the source or even to shape those God-given truths/values; such idolatry will always degenerate into an oppressive oligarchy.

Societies have a moral responsibility to care for their members who cannot care for themselves and may choose to do this through their governments or private agencies, or a combination of both. If delegated to government, care must be taken to ensure people do not lose their sense of personal responsibility for the care of others.

It follows that the role of civil government should be limited to (1) ensuring the safety and security of the nation’s citizens, (2) protecting individuals and minority groups from abuse, i.e., ensuring their rights, and (3) providing the services the citizens assign to it. We can best achieve our national potential by helping each member of our society achieve their fullest human potential; this requires (1) a sense of personal responsibility for one’s future, and (2) hope that one can attain to an abundant life. Liberalism is handicapped in these concerns.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I am a Republican - Part I

As most everyone who knows Cheryl and me is aware, we are a divided couple; she is a Democrat and I am a Republican. I respect anyone who votes; I respect more anyone who votes with a sense of moral conviction for guidance. I fully understand why some devout, born again, Spirit-filled Christians are Democrats. The Democratic Party has a long history of commitment to issues that should concern followers of Jesus: justice, poverty, human rights, etc. However, the truth is just as many Republicans care about these issues. We differ in how to address them. I believe a conservative political philosophy is the best way to achieve these goals.

Before continuing I need to address a few of my pet political peeves. First, I am especially sensitive when my friends in the other party make comments about Republicans being warmongers. As best as I recall the majority of military conflicts the USA has entered in the last century have been at the behest and leadership of Democrat presidents [Woodrow Wilson in WW I, Franklin Roosevelt in WW II, Harry Truman in Korea, Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam, Clinton in Somalia and Serbia – granted George Bush first sent American soldiers to Somalia on a humanitarian mission to prevent pending starvation but it was Clinton who changed and extended their mission to that of military action. I think there has only been one President from the Democrat Party in the last one hundred years who hasn’t led our country into military conflict. I am not here commenting on the justification for any of these wars. I am just stating the facts. Democrats take us to war.

Second, I refuse to grant the Democrats the higher ground on issues such as civil rights. The GOP is after all the party of Abraham Lincoln. It is the historic party of civil liberties. I am old enough to remember the old Southern Democrats who fought civil rights on the grounds of “states rights.” The openly political racists of the twentieth century were virtually all Democrats. Some converted to the GOP when they felt shut out of their party and shame on the GOP for accepting them for political gain. But it was the Democratic Party that nurtured and promoted them for the biggest part of the twentieth century.

Third, I am irritated by people who are single issue voters, unless the issue is of grave significance and is consistently applied. Abortion is the one issue that qualifies for me at this time. I am pro-life and I will not vote for a person or a party that is not committed to protect the weakest members of society. But I am completely pro-life which means I oppose abortion, the neglect of those who suffer, and war (except when all other methods to protect the innocent from gross inhumanities have been exhausted – the problem with the “just war” theory is that it is too easily manipulate to defend any war). While I personally consider abortion a form of genocide, I recognize some Christians may honestly disagree with me on the question of when human life begins and thus may allow for early-term abortions as morally defensible. My strong view is that a woman should have a choice as to when to get pregnant, not when to end a life. If a Christian is going to support the Republican candidate primarily because of the abortion issue, he or she has a moral obligation to weigh all life issues against the Scriptures.

Finally, I don’t vote on the issues because Presidents can’t deliver promises made about the issues (congress has to write the laws) and they often surprise us with actions that seem to contradict their stated political positions. Nixon, a Republican, got us out of Viet Nam, started D├ętente with the Russians, and went to China. The military build-up that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union for which Ronald Regan gets the credit was actually begun by Jimmy Carter, a Democrat. The biggest cut in social welfare programs in American history was initiated by Bill Clinton, a Democrat. And finally, the “no child left behind” act, one of the biggest expansions of the federal government into state and local government since reconstruction of the south, was initiated by a Republican, George W Bush. Politicians are unpredictable.

Therefore, I simply do not choose my party or my candidates because of their position on specific issues. I am concerned with the underlying philosophy that guides their positions on the issues. I am a conservative, not a liberal. Therefore, I am a member of the conservative party, the Republican Party.