29 July 2007

Thinking Christians: a real counter-culture – Wisdom Sunday

To remain the Church we must sustain orthodoxy and frame Christian belief doctrinally, but … this requires habits of reflection and judgment that are simply out of place in our culture – and increasingly are disappearing from the Church too. Our society seeks rapid gratification – immediacy of feelings, rather than the slowness of learning. As credit cards enable us to possess without waiting, so churches give the message that we can likewise have divine results, without having to wait – indeed, without even having to think. Marva J. Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time, p. 111, internal quotation marks removed)

And, in fact, in many Christian circles thinking is a very ‘unspiritual’ thing to do.
27 July 2007

Benchmarks: They’re not just for Iraq anymore

Well, if only.

A reader of the Union City Daily Messenger in Union City, TN recommends eight benchmarks (not earmarks, mind you) for Congress.

The Seventh is really a state matter, but in essence the list is not such a bad idea. On a Christian view government has, at least minimally, the obligation (and yes, I mean the God-given obligation) to protect the physical lives and the property of its citizens. (See Romans 13.1-7) (Yes, as a matter of fact, god does care about your property. That's why He said, "You shall not steal." In fact, that prohibition made the same list which contains, "You shall not murder." But I digress.)

With regard to its jurisdiction, the Fed really isn’t doing a hot job in some areas, like for example border enforcement.
26 July 2007

And they wonder why we don’t trust their immigration legislation

Heard this on Laura Ingraham yesterday. While the U. S. government sends two Border Patrol agents up the Bendover Grande River, it issues an “e-ticket to Disney World” to the known drug smuggler that the two B. P. agents shot.
24 July 2007

Uh…hello? Burden of proof?

Johnny Sutton was a guest last week on Laura Ingraham’s show. (2nd Hour, 20 July 2007) Part of the discussion was about whether Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila (the man whose rights were deprived by Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean) was armed. Sutton’s line of reasoning went something like this: Only one out of every five hundred drug smugglers (which is what Aldrete inarguably is) is armed. “What this tells us is that smugglers don't carry guns.” And, therefore, Aldrete was unarmed when he was shot by agents Ramos and Compean.

Smugglers don’t carry guns. Therefore, Aldrete was unarmed. Oh, my.

This line of reasoning doesn't work, for two reasons. First, the proposition “Smugglers don't carry guns” translated for purposes of logical analysis, is that “For all smugglers, no smuggler is a gun-carrier.” So goes Sutton’s reasoning. But clearly this in not the case, for Sutton has already informed us that in fact one in five hundred smugglers does in fact carry a gun. “Smugglers don’t carry guns” (or, “For all smugglers, no smugglers is a gun-carrier”) is a universal negative. But this sort of proposition is unwarranted by the justification (i.e., one of five hundred smugglers carries a gun). The proposition warranted by the justification is “For all smugglers, some smugglers are gun-carriers”, a particular affirmative.

So in reality the most Ramos and Compean could know is that most smugglers don't carry guns. But since (as Sutton admits) one in five hundred smugglers does carry a gun, they had no reason to think that Aldrete would not be that one in five hundred. The question is not how many smugglers in a sample have been found with firearms. The question is whether Aldrete was armed when he was shot, or at least whether Ramos and Compean had reason to believe he was armed. (You know, like when he turned and pointed – something – at them.)

The second problem with Sutton’s reasoning is that it shifts the burden to the defense. In our system, the burden of proof is upon the prosecution. The accused is innocent until proven guilty. If part of the prosecution’s case against Ramos and Compean is that Aldrete was unarmed and therefore they shot an unarmed man, thus depriving him of his rights, then they have to prove not that Aldrete was probably unarmed (because only one in five hundred is armed) but that he was, in fact, unarmed. The way Sutton has it, the prosecution has only to present some statistics about the number of smugglers who have been armed (even if those statistics are uncontested), leaving it to the defense to prove that in this case the smuggler in question was armed.

If Sutton’s reasoning here is an indication of how prosecutors (and jurors) think the burden is met, then I fear for anyone who’s ever accused of a crime.
23 July 2007

Why do we need lawyers on the Supreme Court?

Senator Obama was not happy with the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding a ban on partial birth abortions. According to him we need as Supreme Court justices people who have empathy:

We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.
Right. What we don’t need is somebody who’s got the brains, the intelligence, to recognize law when he sees it. The rationality to know how to read the law and apply it without passion or prejudice (or at least as close thereto as possible).

I would agree that there ought to be empathy embodied in the law. But I think the proper place for that is in it’s legislation and execution. In other words, it makes perfect sense if (in addition – God, please hear me! – to rationality) legislators and executives “recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom… [and have] the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”

But once those people get done crafting and signing into law, judges ought to leave it alone. Just apply it. It isn’t (always) that difficult (hard cases not withstanding). At least it isn’t as difficult as they seem bent on making it.

On the plus side, maybe we’ll see the influence on the law of lawyers diminish. If it’s “heart” and “empathy” we want then we don’t really need law school graduates on the Court. Any liberal will do, as Justice Breyer, albeit a lawyer, demonstrates so very well. I mean, it doesn’t take a lawyer to prefer some provision of the laws of Bitch-and-gripe-istan to his own constitution. Your average teenager can apply the law of another jurisdiction quite well. Observe: But at Johnny’s house they watch porn all the time, Mom” or “But Linda’s Mom let’s her go topless at the beach!”

See? So easy even a teenager can do it.

It also doesn’t take much of a lawyer to understand the oracular babblings of a “living, breathing document.” (For that matter it doesn’t take a lawyer to believe in a living, breathing document!) Muff Potter (the town drunk in Tom Sawyer) could do as well. He was a pretty empathetic guy. Or Phil Donahue; he has empathy.

When you think about it, a President Obama will probably nominate John Edwards to the Court. Edwards has svengali empathy. But I digress.

Ultimately, what Senator Obama is promising is lawless judges on the highest court in the nation. All the talk of empathy and heart is a cover for lawlessness, a shield behind which a judge can hide the fact that he is not bound by the law that governs the rest of us. The Supreme Court is the only element of the federal government which flaunts its lawlessness with impunity. Federal district courts are bound by decisions of their respective appellate courts. These courts in turn are bound by decisions of the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court is bound by nothing, really. (Oh, sure. There’s the amendment process. But let’s be for real here.)

The Court has used “trends” (e.g., Roper v Simmons) and foreign law (e.g., Lawrence v. Texas) to reach some of its decisions in recent years. At least in a decision like Roe, the Court still recognized the need of at least pretending to craft an opinion derived from Constitutional exegesis. No longer.

Senator Obama has told us something about what he thinks about the nature of justice, the equal application of the law. The ideal, however short any have fallen, is that justice is blind. The law says what it says; and what it says is applicable to poor, African-American, gay, disabled, or old equally and alike. Of what possible relevance can economic condition, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical condition or age be to a judge who will simply apply the law? These things can only be of relevance if the judge is to set aside the law based on those characteristics. That would be lamentable. That is, if justice is blind, or ought to be.

On Obama’s view justice depends upon economic condition, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical condition or age. The Court thought that the question before it was whether the ban violated some provision of Constitutional law. The good senator believes that the question before the Court has something to do with someone’s economic condition, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical condition or age. The law, apparently, is irrelevant. Or perhaps he believes that the law, though instructive, is not binding.

As long as Senator Obama has made clear his preference for lawless judges, he ought to lead his party in ceasing to prate about the President’s own Constitutional lawlessness. The President may be lawless, but at least we have the opportunity every four years of replacing him. This is not the case with the Court. And as long as Leftists are willing to accept a lawless Court, they may as well accustom themselves to a lawless executive. They are already quite obviously comfortable with the idea of a lawless legislature.

Senator Obama, as a Christian, may like to know that God, in addition to requiring that executives obey the law (see Deuteronomy 17.18—20), also requires that judges not pervert justice. In fact, on the subject of the poor, and judges, the Bible says: “You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute” (Exodus 23.3). A judge may very well empathize with the poor man. But the poor man’s poverty has nothing to do with whether the facts support his case. The judge cannot find for the plaintiff just because the plaintiff is poor. The same is true of the plaintiff’s ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, because the Scriptures elsewhere state: “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16.19, emphasis mine, of course).

H/T: Althouse

P. S.

I’m not naïve. I know very well that the ideal of justice as blind cannot be achieved perfectly. But I do think that the choice is between the attempt on one hand and abject lawlessness on the other. Men may not perfectly love their wives; mine prefers one who tries and occasionally fails to one who, concluding that he cannot do so perfectly, shrugs his shoulders and doesn’t try at all. Obama, and others like him, have seemed to me to be saying, “We cannot perfectly apply the law without passion or prejudice, so let’s have passion and prejudice. But let’s just have passion for the ‘right’ people; let’s have the ‘right’ prejudices.”
22 July 2007

A theocratic republic?

There is a salacious rumor in American politics which has it that Christians must prefer a theocracy to any other system of government -- and are trying to institute one here in the U. S.

No less a Reformed personage than John Calvin expressed a preference for a form of government not very disimilar to what our Founders set up.

[I]f you compare the forms of government among themselves apart from the circumstances, it is not easy to distinguish which one of them excels in usefulness, for they contend on such equal terms. The fall from kingdom to tyranny is easy; but it is not much more difficult to fall from the rule of the best men to the faction of a few; yet it is easiest of all to fall from popular rule to sedition. For if the three forms of government which the philosophers discuss be considered in themselves, I will not deny that aristocracy, or a system compounded of aristocracy and democracy, far excels all others: not indeed of itself, but because it is very rare for kings so to control themselves that their will never disagrees with what is just and right; or for them to have been endowed with such great keenness and prudence, that each knows how much is enough. Therefore, men’s fault or failing causes it to be safer and more bearable for a number to exercise government, so that they may help one another, teach and admonish one another; and, if one asserts himself unfairly, there may be a number of censors and masters to restrain his willfulness. This has already been proved by experience, and confirmed also by the authority of the Lord himself, when he established an aristocracy bordering on popular government among the Israelites, keeping them under that as the best form, until he exhibited an image of the Messiah in David. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 4, Ch. 20, sec. 8.

For a Christian there can be no theocratic government which is not a theocratic monarchy. And that theocratic monarchy must have Jesus Christ as its king.
20 July 2007
In a recent column – random thoughts – Thomas Sowell wants to know:

Has anyone actually seen Rachael Ray measure out the ingredients she puts into her cooking, instead of using a pinch of this and a handful of that?
Um, I’ve never seen Rachael Ray, except on the cover of her magazine when standing in line at the grocery store. But most of the men I know, to the extent that they would have any interest in Rachael Ray, are probably more interested in this than this.

The women who watch probably aren’t any more careful about measuring ingredients than Rachael is. I know my wife isn’t. I watch her make stuff all the time, and it certainly looks to me as if measuring cups and spoons exist only to get certain kinds of ingredients into the mix rather than certain amounts of ingredients.

NOTE: I had actually to look for those photos, so I don’t want to hear any crap. How did I know they were out there to find? Please. In this country?
19 July 2007

Blog Star?

I was talking to an acquaintance at church on Sunday about why people blog. We all have our reasons. Mine? I was encouraged to do so by a friend. I keep doing it because it's fun, it keeps me reading and thinking, and every now and then I get an email or a comment that encourages more thought. I like that sort of thing. And I don't get out much.

On the way home from church I heard Nickleback's "Rockstar" and the idea for this parody came immediately to mind.


(Roughly to the tune of Nickleback’s “Rockstar”. Caution: The meter is very tricky in some places.)

I’m through with hanging on the line
for shows I’ll never get on
It’s like the stupid lottery
that I’m never gonna win
My job hasn’t always been
What I’d like it to be

(Tell me whatcha want.)

I wanna drop this hammer
Buy a pimped laptop
And big fat chair that I could live in
And enough TVs to watch
All the news at once

(So whatcha need?)

I’ll need a satellite dish and tivo with it
No. Direct TV. Yeah the sky’s the limit.
Gonna quit my job and
blog full-time like Captain Ed

(Been there. Done that.)

I want to get email from Carol Liebau
And my blog linked on Carter’s blogroll
Getting tons of hits and links
Twenty-four hours a day

(So how ya gonna do it?)

I’m gonna trade this life
for the Ecosystem
Join some alliance,
Try to keep up with ‘em

‘Cause you know I just wanna be a big blog star
Read by Hannity and Hewitt and Ingraham
Even Rush Limbaugh’s gonna know who I am
That brainy hot chick who pissed the godless off
Will have my name on her lips as she falls asleep
And she’ll have sweet dreams about marrying me
Even dear old mom’s gonna read my blog
Tell all her snobby friends who said I’d never go far
And I’ll –

Hey hey I wanna be a blog star
Hey hey I wanna be a blog star

I wanna be like Steyn but without the accent
(Or maybe just like Lileks with all that sarcasm)
Write a couple cheesy books
And I can have them published here

(I like this one for the jacket photo.)

I can parley my blog
Into a talk show gig
Get a daytime slot on a blowtorch station
Gonna sit in for Limbaugh
When Williams can’t do it himself

(So how ya gonna do it?)

I’m gonna trade this life
for the Ecosystem
Join some alliance,
Try to keep up with ‘em

‘Cause you know I just wanna be a big blog star
Read by Hannity and Hewitt and Ingraham
Even Rush Limbaugh’s gonna know who I am
That brainy hot chick who pissed the godless off
Will have my name on her lips as she falls asleep
And she’ll have sweet dreams about marrying me
Even dear old mom’s gonna read my blog
Tell all her snobby friends who said I’d never go far
And I’ll hob-knob with the Higher Beings
I’ll settle for a ranking right behind Michelle Malkin
It won’t make me any money but it’s fun a while
And everyone will have me on all their blogrolls

Well, hey hey I wanna be a blog star

I’m gonna write those posts
That offend the liberals
Gonna choose my words
To piss off the Europeans

I'll get brown-nosing students
Writing all my posts
Put my name to them all
(You know the Instapundit does)

Well you know I just wanna be a big blog star
Read by Hannity and Hewitt and Ingraham
Even Rush Limbaugh’s gonna know who I am
That brainy hot chick who pissed the godless off
Will have my name on her lips as she falls asleep
And she’ll have sweet dreams about marrying me
Even dear old mom’s gonna read my blog
Tell all her snobby friends who said I’d never go far
And I’ll hob-knob with the Higher Beings
I’ll settle for a ranking right behind Michelle Malkin
It won’t make me any money but it’s fun a while
And everyone will have me on all their blogrolls

Well, hey, hey, I wanna be a blog star
Hey hey I wanna be a blog star
17 July 2007

Some thoughts about universal healthcare

Under the heading of “Better late than never” this posting is a response to a comment left for me here. This response is pretty long; and I’m not in the habit of leaving long comments at other peoples’ blogs, so I’m posting it here.

Anonymous writes:

…i couldn't agree with you more. the police and fire departments are hardly comparable to our current healthcare system... they actually work while the healthcare system is broken.

Actually, you don’t agree with me. The point of comparison was not the efficient operation of the healthcare “system” with the police and fire departments. The comparison was of the “services” they provide. The services are not comparable. The services of the healthcare “system” are part of the GDP; the “services” of the police and fire departments are not. And as for your contention that the police and fire departments actually work while the healthcare system is broken let me just say, first, that there are those who would argue that their police and/or fire departments don’t work, and, second, that we don’t have a healthcare system any more than we have a police or fire system, or a supermarket system. I would also add that 14.66 percent of our population without healthcare insurance hardly constitutes a national crisis – or a broken “system”. Let me ask you a sort of control question: If 14.66 percent of all crimes were never solved would you assert that our law enforcement “system” was broken?

Anonymous writes:

however, in the united states in which i live, the fire and police departments operate exactly that way: they "take wealth in the form of currency (acquired through taxes)" and transfer "that wealth (in the form of goods and services) to others" (e.g. water, protection, law enforcement, emergency medical treatment, et cetera). so when you say, "this is not what police and fire departments do" are you making the claim that tax dollars don't flow to these departments, or are you making the claim that these departments don't provide services?

The police and fire departments don’t operate in the same way (i.e., ["take wealth in the form of currency (acquired through taxes)" and transfer "that wealth (in the form of goods and services) to others" (e.g. water, protection, law enforcement, emergency medical treatment, et cetera).] ). The key word is “transfer”; it’s a term of art. The way you’re using it amounts to an illegitimate totality transfer. I was using the term “transfer” in a specific way, specific to economics. The provision of healthcare services, I was saying, is comparable to a transfer payment. In economics a “transfer payment” is a payment of money from one or more individuals to one or more individuals via government, and for which no good or service is required in return. Transfer payments can be thought of as a negative tax, since in the case of a tax, people pay the government without getting any good or service in direct exchange. Examples of transfer payments include welfare, unemployment insurance, social security payments, publicly-funded pensions and public support for students, including scholarships and financial aid and death benefits for parents. What I was getting at was the fact that although (unlike welfare and those other examples) there is no transfer of money, there is yet a transfer of wealth, one might say, in kind. What distinguishes “transfers” from the services of the police and fire departments is the element, if you’ll look back at the brief explanation, of direct exchange. And before you protest too loudly let me remind you that one entity which also makes this distinction is government, the provider of those “services” you speak of and love so much. So, if the government makes a distinction between “transfers” and other “services” I think we can also. And that is what I do. I maintain my claim that the healthcare “system” you envision would constitute a transfer, in kind, of wealth from one to another.

Anonymous writes:

you invalidate your own point, because having a car isn't an attribute of a person's "general welfare". i'm sure that most americans agree that a person's "general welfare" is directly tied to their health. obviously the capitalist system has so clearly failed a growing majority of americans in the area of health care.

There is no such thing as a person’s “general welfare”. There is “general (i.e., public) welfare” and “personal welfare.” A person’s personal welfare may be tied directly to his health, but the general welfare really isn’t tied to anyone’s personal welfare. If you’re going to employ phrases from the Constitution you ought to employ them in the way the Constitution does. (That’s a task called “exegesis”.) And in the Constitution “general welfare” isn’t used the way you use it. But even granting your notion about “general welfare” I doubt too many people will satisfied with you and your ilk being the ones who decide what is or is not required for one’s personal welfare.

But even if all that isn’t true, as long as you’re going arbitrarily to redefine the phrase “general welfare” in the Constitution to include healthcare, nothing prevents anyone redefining “general welfare” to include, as I argued, anything that I may need, including an automobile. My argument, that my neighbor is obligated to provide my anything I need, still stands because “general welfare” is a very broad concept.

Neither has the “capitalist system” failed anyone. The capitalist system is a system of doctrines about how scarce resources are distributed; it’s a scientific (i.e., economic) theory, not an organic distribution system. The capitalist system of economics has no more failed anyone than the Newtonian system of mechanics fails the passengers of a plane that crashes.

Anonymous writes:

you're taking extra liberties to draw the conclusion that you have no right to live. roe v. wade provided mothers the right to choose to whether carry a fetus to term, putting the onus on your mother to decide whether you would be born or not. once born, the constitution does protect your inalienable rights (bill of rights, constitutional amendments) as originally eluded to by thomas jefferson in the declaration of independence, when he included "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" among these rights. so, i suppose you can thank you mother for the decision she made and you can thank roe v. wade for protecting her right to make that choice. as far as i know, the u.s. does not have forced abortions or zero population growth laws.

To look into the logical implications of a proposition is not to take “extra” liberties in drawing conclusions. In fact, it is taking no liberties whatsoever. Let me see if I can make it more explicit for you. Two preliminary remarks: (1) We need not have forced abortions or zero population growth laws in order for it to be true that we have no right to life; the relation between the two is not truth-functional; (2) I don’t think you’ve even read the Roe opinion. Most people, especially lawyers, know there is only the slightest resemblance to a legal opinion in Roe, if even that much. Not only have I done, I’ve also read the early drafts of the opinion as well as the memos exchanged between Justices Brennan and Blackmun (who wrote the majority opinion). These drafts and memos make it very clear that both justices believed there was no such right to be found in the constitution, that they were creating such a right from whole cloth, and that it was only a matter of how to pull it off.

Now, although I mentioned the Supreme Court, my primary reliance was not upon the opinion. In my very first comment, I did not say any government said I had no right to life. What I said was: “I find it odd to live in a land in which many of the very people who tell me I have no right to be here in the first place (i.e., no right to life), also tell me that I have a right to those things which make life possible. And, furthermore, that I have these rights at others' expense.” I did not mention any government; and I wasn’t alluding to any government. I said “people”; and I meant “people”. You mentioned government. When I responded to your comment it was only as if to say, “Well, to the extent any government has said, then the Supreme Court can serve well enough as an answer.” For clarity’s sake, I will set aside the Supreme Court for present purposes.

So then. My conclusion that I have no right to life is not based on taking any liberties. It is, as I said in my second posted comment, what I believe to be a logical implication of the proposition that the fetus has no right to life. If you disagree then simply show me that this is not a logical implication. Simply saying it isn’t a logical implication -- or that I'm taking liberties -- just won’t do. And telling me that the Supreme Court didn’t say won’t do either; legal opinions are irrelevant: I’m talking about a philosophical matter, not a legal matter.

Assuming the fetus is human:

It is argued that a mother has the right to terminate the life of the fetus in her uterus at will. The fetus is human. Therefore, a mother has the right to terminate at will the life of a human (so long, of course, as that human is the one in her uterus). If the life of humans can be terminated at will, then humans do not have a right to life. You could of course continue to press this argument by asserting a relevant distinction between unborn humans and born humans: Born humans have a right to life, but unborn humans do not. (Judith Jarvis Thomson made very close to such an argument in her 1971 Philosophy and Public Affairs article, “A Defense of Abortion” [an article in which she grants, if only for argument’s sake that the fetus is human]). If you do press that argument then I think you should show how the distinction between unborn-human and born-human gives a right to life to the latter but not the former. To sum up then:

Assuming the fetus is human:

1. For all humans, if the life of a human may be taken at will, then a human has no right to life.
2. The life of a human (e.g., a fetus) may be taken at will (even if only by its mother).
3. Therefore, humans have no right to life.

You correctly state that the Constitution protects my “right” to life. But the truth is only that the Constitution prevents the government from taking my life, and even then only without due process of law. I need not truly have a right to my life for the Constitution to limit the government’s power to take my life. Neither must humans have a right to life in order for the law to prohibit murder. We as a society could agree that even though we don’t truly have a right to life we nevertheless want to live and agree together not to take each others’ lives (i.e., social contract, making “right to life” a legal fiction). I maintain that if one accepts the proposition that a mother has the right to take at will the life of her unborn child (a human) then it cannot truly be said that humans have the right to life. We live – at least in utero – by the good graces of our mothers. That hardly counts as a right to life.

Assuming that the fetus is not human:

We need not assume that the fetus is human in order for me to argue that humans truly have no right to life. If I don’t have a right to have been born into the world, then I do not have a right to be in the world. Being in the world means living. I think it quite clear that if I do not have a right to be born, then tautologically I do not have a right to be here, a right to live. That being the case I wonder that there are those who assert both (1) mothers’ right to deny birth to unborn children as well as (2) a right of humans to their lives and those things, like healthcare, which make their lives possible. I don’t think I’m asking too much for an explanation of the difference between an unborn child and a born child such that the born one acquires a right to its life while the unborn child is denied a right to its life. It’s a philosophical question, Anonymous; and such questions are not resolved (at least to my satisfaction) by the Supreme Court. To sum up:

Assuming that “a right to be here” (i.e., in the world) and “a right to live” (i.e., a right to life) are equivalent expressions; and

Whereas, every person living was once a fetus; and

Whereas no human could be here (i.e., be alive) without having been born:

1. If a mother has the right to terminate the life of a fetus then no human has a right to have been born – tautologically, no right to be here, no right to life.
2. A mother has the right to terminate the life of a fetus.
3. Therefore no human has a right to have been born; no human has a right to be here, no right to life.

So then: humans have no right to life. Therefore, they ought not be considered to have a right to the means of preserving their lives, at least not at the expense of others. All you have to do is show me how I have a right to life; then you can show me how I come to have this right to life such that my life is to be maintained at others’ expense, whether they wish to take this burden upon themselves or not.

Anonymous writes:

on the other hand, we do have many states that enforce the death sentence which does say that a jury of people can revoke a person's right to life.

Juries don’t “revoke” anyone’s right to life, depending upon one’s worldview. On a Judeo-Christian view the death penalty is rooted in the Noachide law. See Genesis 9.5-6. On that same view a human’s right to life is a right granted by God against all other humans. But a human doesn’t have that right against God. Human governments have had the requirement from God to take the life of murderers, and act as His agents in doing so. So in maintaining the right of an unborn child to its life, and the permissibility of the state to take the life of a murderer, we maintain that the distinction between the two is that the murderer has murdered and the unborn child hasn’t.

On a secular view it is difficult to see how anyone can have a right to life, or anything else. I suppose it’s just because we want to have it so. Even so, resolution of this seeming contradiction depends at least upon (1) what rights are; (2) which rights we have; (3) how we come to have them; and (4) under what conditions, if any, we can be said to surrender them (i.e., whether they are absolute and irrevocable). (A fifth issue may well be: who has the authority to render a verdict on these questions.) Leaving aside (1) and (3) let’s say that we have a right to life. Saying so need not imply that we have this right irrevocably and absolutely. We might have this right conditionally (e.g., on condition that we not murder other humans). Besides, what’s your point? That since the life of a murderer may be “revoked” so may the life of a fetus? If so then guilt or innocence of wrong-doing must be irrelevant to you.


Nothing about any statements in defense of capitalism are to be taken as evidence that I believe capitalism to be required by or even identified with the Christian faith. I do believe that, unlike macro-evolution, capitalism does not conflict with any tenets of the Christian faith. As I mentioned above, capitalism is a scientific theory. I think I am as free, as a Christian, to believe in capitalism as I am to believe in string theory, or the Big Bang, or even theistic evolution.

Economics is a social science, not a branch of ethics. It studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. And capitalism is a theory within that science. As a theory in economics, capitalism is not a normative economic theory; it is a positivist theory. In other words, it isn’t a theory about what ought to be the case; it is a theory about what is the case. What is the case is that free markets, however paradoxical, more efficiently (though not perfectly) distribute scarce means which have alternative uses than do command economies (i.e., quasi-capitalist or socialistic economies).

That last point is important because most criticisms of capitalism appear rooted in the notion that it must be appraised ethically. Capitalism doesn’t help the poor; therefore people who “like” it don’t care about the poor. It follows then that capitalists are selfish, greedy people – immoral people. That is a silly notion. A similar approach to a different scientific theory is the approach which rejects evolution because of certain ethical considerations. For example, many years ago Tim LaHaye asserted evolution was responsible for, among other things, pornography. That may be true. But it is not an argument against evolution.

It is true that capitalism does nothing for the poor. I freely admit that. But my Christian faith doesn’t demand that I give my assent to scientific theories based on what such theories supposedly “do” for the poor. No scientific theory does anything for the poor. For that matter no scientific theory does anything for the rich.

My faith requires that I do something for the poor. And I do. And the quasi-free market economy that we have helps me to do something for the poor. A truly free market might help me do more. My faith doesn’t require that I construct from whole cloth a scientific theory that benefits – or at least doesn’t “fail” – the poor.

I may, it is true, reject some type of evolutionary theory which conflicts with my Christian faith. But it is logic which forces me to do so. A form of evolutionary theory may be a proposition which in turn implies the proposition, There is no creator. As a Christian, I believe the proposition, There is a creator. I cannot believe both that There is a creator and that There is no creator. Either I reject this form of evolutionary theory, or I renounce my Christian faith. Because I believe Christianity is true, I logically reject that form of evolutionary theory which implies there is no creator.

I am not in this position when it comes to capitalist economic theory. I may as a Christian believe the proposition that I have a duty to the poor and the proposition that Free markets more efficiently distribute goods and services. As a Christian, I believe that as my economic circumstances improve my financial duty to the poor increases as well. So if the operation of the free market improves my economic conditions (and…uh…they do) then I have more means at my disposal with which to assist the poor.

When, however, it comes to a redistributionist government I am in the position of having a conflict with one of the requirements of my faith. I cannot find where the Scriptures teach me to support a government which simply takes one person’s money and gives it to another (even “in kind”) just because the first person has it and the second doesn’t have as much. Stealing doesn’t cease to be stealing just because the government does it. And it doesn’t cease to be stealing just because the stolen money is given to another (well, some anyway: the government gets its “take”; it doesn’t perform that service for free, you know). (Also, this operation corrupts politics more than it is naturally subject to. Politicians of both Right and Left make appeals based on either how much of our money they are going to help us keep, or how much of someone else’s money they are going to transfer to us. In other words, they buy votes. And worse: they do so with other peoples’ money.)

My faith teaches me to be both innocent and wise. I think I’m wise enough to know stealing when I see it, and not fall for it when the thief says, “But it’s for the poor.”
12 July 2007

If you have absolutely, positively, unquestionably nothing to do...

Go here, listen to "The Llama Song" and watch the video.

Then there's this oldie-but-still-a-goodie on the end of the world.

If you still have some time on your hands, or just want to waste some time, celebrate bovine freedom:

And, if you must, celebrate...uh...dance:

10 July 2007
Treason according to the Constitution: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. "

Treason according to RFK, Jr.: Disagreeing with any scientific theory accepted by the Left – among other things:

Whenever I hear one of these Kennedies talk about corporations it makes me wonder: What’s in the Kennedy family trust? That trust has supported a whole lot of kids who haven’t any more worked for a living than the corporate executives they complain about.

Disagreement with a scientific theory accepted by the Left also makes you a flat-earther.

Orthodoxy. It’s not just for conservatives. The Left love it too.

By the way, if these corporations are guilty of treason then Jane Fonda is more so.
05 July 2007

A few things to bear in mind when it comes to immigration, legal or otherwise…

The issue isn’t going to go away. We do have to do something about that southern border, and about the 12 million illegal guest workers. But there are some things to bear in mind about the country that 56 percent of those illegal guest workers are coming from. And these things ought to encourage us not to be apologetic about wanting to insist on our border.

It is interesting that we have been criticized for believing that we can enforce our borders without being embarrassed by it. We were called, among other things, nativists for wanting to do precisely that. It’s ironic when you think about it.

Want to talk about nativists? (And, on the subject, why we think the senate are largely ignorant.) Let’s have a look at certain provisions of the Mexican constitution ( here; english translation here).

Some of the pandering to which we have been treated included heartwarming stories of the (legal) immigrants serving in our armed forces. In the U. S. a naturalized citizen can serve as a commissioned officer, even to the extent of serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. This is not true in the United Mexican States (see const art. 32). If you want to be a commissioned officer in the Mexican armed forces, you must be native born; naturalized citizens need not apply.

Here in the U. S. a naturalized citizen can be elected to the House or the Senate, even to the governorship of a state (like Arnold Schwarzenegger); a naturalized citizen can even be a member of the cabinet. This is not the case in Mexico, where one must be a native born Mexican citizen in order to serve in the federal legislature or the cabinet (Arts. 51, 95, 99). Again, naturalized citizens need not apply. (And propononents of the bill called us nativists!) It’s a bit more stringent if you would like to be President. If you are native-born, but your parents were not, sorry, no presidency for you. (And we are criticized because Governor Schwarzenneger cannot run for President. At least here in the U. S. his sons can do.)

Here in the U. S. those who supposedly are stuck in the shadows engage in political demonstrations, marches and the like (including the flying of the flag of their homeland). Mexico would not permit non-citizens to do so (art. 9); indeed the Mexican president is permitted summarily – without any legal proceedings whatsoever – to deport any foreigner whose presence he deems inexpedient (art. 33). And Mexico most certainly would not permit illegal guest workers to stage protests and demonstrations. (If we did that we would be treated to lectures on human rights.)

You know those evil “vigilante” minutemen on the border that the Mexican government objects to? Article 16 of the Mexican constitution states, "in cases of flagrante delicto, any person may arrest the offender and his accomplices, turning them over without delay to the nearest authorities." So Mexican citizens have a constitutional right to arrest illegal aliens and hand them over to police for prosecution. (I’m sure those illegal aliens will be well-treated by those arresting citizens.) Our minutemen are odious simply for watching the border and alerting law enforcement to encroachments of our borders. Imagine what would be said about them if they had the federal constitutional authority to conduct citizens’ arrests!

I object to none of Mexico’s constitutional provisions. It’s their country; it’s their business. I’ve written several times on this blog that I believe in the right of nation-states to protect and preserve their borders. I also believe in the right of nation-states to preserve their cultures. And the preservation of the Mexican culture – which, as Octavio Paz once wrote, is still in many respects a work in progress – is one of the reasons for those stringent constitutional provisions. I understand the purpose of those provisions: to ensure that those who may wield the power to alter the culture have imbibed that culture, and know that culture, and love that culture, and will therefore (hopefully) be disinclined to work to alter that culture.

It would be nice if Mexico, which has provided around 56 percent of our illegal guest workers, would acknowledge that we have the same right and privilege they so enjoy.
01 July 2007

Think humility -- Wisdom Sunday

Today’s bit of wisdom comes to us from St. Benedict. Having once wanted to be a Benedictine (or, alternatively, a Dominican or Jesuit), I learned to appreciate the Rule and it’s call to a rather “spartan” lifestyle, a lifestyle of obedience and self-sacrifice. Although most Reformed Catholics may not be inclined to read and meditate on Catholic writings, what with it’s tendency to legalistic notions, I still find many of them instructive or, at least, food for thought and reflection.

Here Saint Benedict has some instruction for us on humility – something that Christians talk a lot about, but do not, I think, reflect upon sufficiently.

Brethren, the Holy Scripture crieth to us saying: "Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Lk 14:11; 18:14). Since, therefore, it saith this, it showeth us that every exaltation is a kind of pride. The Prophet declareth that he guardeth himself against this, saying: "Lord, my heart is not puffed up; nor are my eyes haughty. Neither have I walked in great matters nor in wonderful things above me" (Ps 130[131]:1). What then? "If I was not humbly minded, but exalted my soul; as a child that is weaned is towards his mother so shalt Thou reward my soul" (Ps 130[131]:2).

Hence, brethren, if we wish to reach the greatest height of humility, and speedily to arrive at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made in the present life by humility, then, mounting by our actions, we must erect the ladder which appeared to Jacob in his dream, by means of which angels were shown to him ascending and descending (cf Gen 28:12). Without a doubt, we understand this ascending and descending to be nothing else but that we descend by pride and ascend by humility. The erected ladder, however, is our life in the present world, which, if the heart is humble, is by the Lord lifted up to heaven. For we say that our body and our soul are the two sides of this ladder; and into these sides the divine calling hath inserted various degrees of humility or discipline which we must mount.

The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes (cf Ps 35[36]:2), shunning all forgetfulness and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded, that he always considereth in his mind how those who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and that life everlasting is prepared for those who fear God. And whilst he guardeth himself evermore against sin and vices of thought, word, deed, and self-will, let him also hasten to cut off the desires of the flesh.

Let a man consider that God always seeth him from Heaven, that the eye of God beholdeth his works everywhere, and that the angels report them to Him every hour. The Prophet telleth us this when he showeth God thus ever present in our thoughts, saying: "The searcher of hearts and reins is God" (Ps 7:10). And again: "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men" (Ps 93[94]:11) And he saith: "Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off" (Ps 138[139]:3). And: "The thoughts of man shall give praise to Thee" (Ps 75[76]:11). Therefore, in order that he may always be on his guard against evil thoughts, let the humble brother always say in his heart: "Then I shall be spotless before Him, if I shall keep myself from iniquity" (Ps 17[18]:24).
We are thus forbidden to do our own will, since the Scripture saith to us: "And turn away from thy evil will" (Sir 18:30). And thus, too, we ask God in prayer that His will may be done in us (cf Mt 6:10). We are, therefore, rightly taught not to do our own will, when we guard against what Scripture saith: "There are ways that to men seem right, the end whereof plungeth into the depths of hell" (Prov 16:25). And also when we are filled with dread at what is said of the negligent: "They are corrupted and become abominable in their pleasure" (Ps 13[14]:1). But as regards desires of the flesh, let us believe that God is thus ever present to us, since the Prophet saith to the Lord: "Before Thee is all my desire" (Ps 37[38]:10).

We must, therefore, guard thus against evil desires, because death hath his station near the entrance of pleasure. Whence the Scripture commandeth, saying: "Go no after thy lusts" (Sir 18:30). If, therefore, the eyes of the Lord observe the good and the bad (cf Prov 15:3) and the Lord always looketh down from heaven on the children of men, to see whether there be anyone that understandeth or seeketh God (cf Ps 13[14]:2); and if our actions are reported to the Lord day and night by the angels who are appointed to watch over us daily, we must ever be on our guard, brethren, as the Prophet saith in the psalm, that God may at no time see us "gone aside to evil and become unprofitable" (Ps 13[14]:3), and having spared us in the present time, because He is kind and waiteth for us to be changed for the better, say to us in the future: "These things thou hast done and I was silent" (Ps 49[50]:21).

The second degree of humility is, when a man loveth not his own will, nor is pleased to fulfill his own desires but by his deeds carrieth our that word of the Lord which saith: "I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (Jn 6:38). It is likewise said: "Self-will hath its punishment, but necessity winneth the crown."

The third degree of humility is, that for the love of God a man subject himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle saith: "He became obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8).

The fourth degree of humility is, that, if hard and distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, he accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up, but hold out, as the Scripture saith: "He that shall persevere unto the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22). And again: "Let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord" (Ps 26[27]:14). And showing that a faithful man ought even to bear every disagreeable thing for the Lord, it saith in the person of the suffering: "For Thy sake we suffer death all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:36; Ps 43[44]:22). And secure in the hope of the divine reward, they go on joyfully, saying: "But in all these things we overcome because of Him that hath loved us" (Rom 8:37). And likewise in another place the Scripture saith: "Thou, O God, hast proved us; Thou hast tried us by fire as silver is tried; Thou hast brought us into a net, Thou hast laid afflictions on our back" (Ps 65[66]:10-11). And to show us that we ought to be under a Superior, it continueth, saying: "Thou hast set men over our heads" (Ps 65[66]:12). And fulfilling the command of the Lord by patience also in adversities and injuries, when struck on the one cheek they turn also the other; the despoiler of their coat they give their cloak also; and when forced to go one mile they go two (cf Mt 5:39-41); with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren and "bless those who curse them" (2 Cor 11:26; 1 Cor 4:12).

The fifth degree of humility is, when one hideth from his Abbot none of the evil thoughts which rise in his heart or the evils committed by him in secret, but humbly confesseth them. Concerning this the Scripture exhorts us, saying: "Reveal thy way to the Lord and trust in Him" (Ps 36[37]:5). And it saith further: "Confess to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever" (Ps 105[106]:1; Ps 117[118]:1). And the Prophet likewise saith: "I have acknowledged my sin to Thee and my injustice I have not concealed. I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord; and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sins" (Ps 31[32]:5).

The sixth degree of humility is, when a monk is content with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him holdeth himself as a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet: "I am brought to nothing and I knew it not; I am become as a beast before Thee, and I am always with Thee" (Ps 72[73]:22-23).

The seventh degree of humility is, when, not only with his tongue he declareth, but also in his inmost soul believeth, that he is the lowest and vilest of men, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: "But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people" (Ps 21[22]:7). "I have been exalted and humbled and confounded" (Ps 87[88]:16). And also: "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy commandments" (Ps 118[119]:71,73).

The eighth degree of humility is, when a monk doeth nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of his elders.

The ninth degree of humility is, when a monk withholdeth his tongue from speaking, and keeping silence doth not speak until he is asked; for the Scripture showeth that "in a multitude of words there shall not want sin" (Prov 10:19); and that "a man full of tongue is not established in the earth" (Ps 139[140]:12).

The tenth degree of humility is, when a monk is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: "The fool exalteth his voice in laughter" (Sir 21:23).

The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: "The wise man is known by the fewness of his words."

The twelfth degree of humility is, when a monk is not only humble of heart, but always letteth it appear also in his whole exterior to all that see him; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed down, his eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding himself guilty of his sins, thinking that he is already standing before the dread judgment seat of God, and always saying to himself in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground: "Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up mine eyes to heaven" (Lk 18:13); and again with the Prophet: "I am bowed down and humbled exceedingly" (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps 118[119]:107).

Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casteth out fear (1 Jn 4:18). In virtue of this love all things which at first he observed not without fear, he will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin. The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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