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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

When Will We Get Back to the Constitution?

You only have the rights you are willing to fight for.

What Do We Need to Hear?

Now that the presidential race is heating up, we hear accusations flying back and forth between the candidates. You need a calculator to add up all the times that one accuses the other of “flip-flopping” on a major issue ranging from the war to drilling for oil. We are regaled with verbiage about health care, global warming (the new phrase is “climate control”), Supreme Court justices, foreign policy, welfare, and the economy. The issues and topics are almost limitless, but there is one topic about which both candidates have been strangely silent. In fact, with the exception of Ron Paul, there has been no candidate who has been willing to mention the subject. And yet, in a very real sense it is the most important subject in the upcoming race. I’m talking about the place of the U.S. Constitution in the minds of each candidate. Do they have an eye for the opening words, “We the People of the United States…,” or do they ignore not only those words, but the content of the founding documents as well?

Christian citizens are to obey those that the Lord has placed in authority over them (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). We also understand that wherever we live, God has providentially placed us there for a reason. Our task is to be salt and light to the world around, although let me quickly add that this mandate does not entail Christian parents sending their children to government schools to be salt and light. That is a cop out to someone’s conscience. Christian children are getting 14,000 seat hours (not to mention propaganda through homework) in government schools. Besides, how many 6 or 8-year-old missionaries do you know? But I digress. Our task is to bring to bear on culture a Christian life and worldview about God, man, society, truth, knowledge, and ethics that is foreign to a fallen world.

Andreas Köstenberger opines that our current cultural crisis “is merely symptomatic of a deep-seated spiritual crisis that continues to gnaw at the foundations of our once-shared societal values.”[1] With the almost unrelenting talk among evangelicals today about “engaging culture,” David Wells has argued convincingly that “A serious engagement with culture…is not what most evangelicals are about.”[2] Moreover, “They have no interest at all in what lies beneath the trends, none on how our modernized culture in the West shapes personal horizons, produces appetites, and provides us ways of processing the meaning of life.”[3]

But what are or what should evangelicals think about being involved in political matters? Some evangelicals would claim that Christians should not be involved in politics at all because that is not the purpose of the gospel. In the last few years, a number of liberal theologians (David Gushee, Brian McLaren, and Jim Wallis) have written what are ostensibly objective accounts of what evangelicals ought to believe vis-à-vis politics. Don’t let them fool you, folks. All three of these men are very liberal in their views and in the cases of both McLaren and Wallis it’s a joke to call them evangelicals. Gushee is possibly an evangelical, but just barely.[4]

Gushee, for example, has written a book entitled The Future of Faith in American Politics, The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center. He walks us through what he considers the hot ticket items on the evangelical right’s agenda and is quite critical of it. He then presents the evangelical left’s agenda and doesn’t seem too concerned that people believe you can be a Bible-believing evangelical and still vote for a party that embraces the sacred cow of abortion on demand (abortus provocatus) and same-sex marriages. Gushee doesn’t explain that—because he can’t—but points out that according to the left there is a certain ambivalence that permeates the position. Citing Brian McLaren as one of the left’s spokesmen, Gushee writes, “He acknowledges the importance of issues of sexuality (among which McLaren includes abortion and homosexuality), but he sees other ‘nonsexual’ issues as more pressing.”[5]

What Gushee considers the “evangelical center” is, by any stretch of the imagination the “evangelical left of center.” But even a man of Gushee’s stature makes no mention of how evangelicals on the right, left, or in the mythical center think, speak, and act about the fact that our elected officials have all but completely neglected the important place the U.S. Constitution ought to take in daily life. Here’s the deal: “Much of what federal, state, and local governments do today far exceeds constitutional authority and any reasonable definition of moral government.”[6] Let me give you just one case in point. Those who home school their children here in California where I live are going to be facing some very tough choices before the summer is over. It is written into the state of California’s education code that every teacher must be certified by the state, i.e., they must attend Mickey Mouse “educational” courses in order to get the state’s Good Housekeeping seal of approval. These courses involve neo-pagan, neo-barbarian worldviews that are one-hundred-and-eighty degrees out of phase with the Christian worldview. Moreover, there is nothing—zip, zero, zilch, nada—in the U.S. Constitution about the feds and education, but we have a department of health, education, and welfare.

Many economists have rightly observed that the essence of government is coercion and that by and large coercion is evil. Now that California somehow finagled this law onto its books, they can now act as if our children are theirs. In other words, they can dictate to free men and women when, where, and how our children will be educated by them. This is, as my old First Sergeant Charlie Green used to say, as wrong as two left overshoes. But Californians have allowed this to happen and when the opportunity arose to raise voices of dissent because of what the Constitution says—and more importantly what the Bible says—they were strangely silent. This is known as reaping the whirlwind.

I’m not singling out Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama on the issue of the centrality of the Constitution, because it’s a problem that crosses party lines and has been in existence for a while, the U.S. citizens being complicit in the problem. Let me give you a couple examples of what I mean. We’ll begin with the creeping tax problem, because it’s a prime indicator of how neglect and inattention to these matters works. In 1787, federal spending hovered around $3 million per year, or an annual tax of $1 per capita. By 1910, the feds were charging American taxpayers $6.75 annually. By 1929, spending topped $3 billion, bumping the annual tax rate up to $29 a person. What is the rate of government spending today? On a good day in 1994, a little over $4 billion a day was spent working out to approximately $6,000 a year per capita in taxes for the U.S. citizen. For those that can still do basic math, this works out to a 9,000% increase in taxation from 1929-1994!

To put matters in sharper perspective, “The colonists, who were paying about 67 cents a year in taxes, went to war with Great Britain claiming, ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny.’”[7] For this very reason, the framers manifested a general distrust of Congress, which is one of the reasons that they included phrases such as “shall not disparage,” “shall not infringe,” and “shall not be taken,” just to mention a few. Yet, even though Ms. Clinton promised the largest tax hike in the history of the United States, many mind-numbed robots raised no objections. In light of what Mr. Obama has been promising and touting, the U.S. citizen is going to have to pony up a boatload of new taxes. But this has not merely been a problem of the Democratic Party. Mr. Bush has managed to out spend his Democratic predecessors in spades, and, it must be added, hardly anything, if anything, was authorized by the U.S. Constitution. And that is the crux of our problem today.

The average family pays more in taxes than for food and clothing combined. In terms we all can understand, “More than 40 percent of the nation’s annual income is spent by politicians rather than by the people who earned it.”[8] But that is our problem in microcosm. Unless you have a CPA or “tax guy,” as a taxpayer you are required to keep records, decipher obscure tax codes, and find legal ways to reduce the already onerous tax burden. Philosopher David Hume said that it is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” It is a gradual, almost imperceptible process and one of the best ways for this to occur in the U.S.—and it’s already had great success—is for the American citizen to be ignorant of the Constitution and to be apathetic.

In this day and age, you can Google “U.S. Constitution” and download the document, or you can go to www.heritage.org and they’ll send you our founding documents for free. This would be a great first step in becoming aware of what the contents of our founding documents are. Once you’ve accomplished that, then you would want to begin to contact your local, state, and federal representatives. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 that written constitutions “furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people.” More recently, Ron Paul said this, “In early American history the Constitution figured heavily in political debate. People want to know, and politicians needed to justify, where the various schemes they debated in Congress were authorized in the Constitution.”[9] Today, the Constitution is like the elephant in the room that neither politicians nor citizens want to notice.

For years Americans have delegated more and more authority to the government, expecting it to care for them from the womb to the tomb. Once you expect the government to do for you what you can actually do for yourself, you have opened the floodgates and as Stanford economist Thomas Sowell once said, “Once you open the floodgates, you cannot tell the water where to go.” Something I’ve noticed in the last week or so is that some Americans are getting to the point where they’re saying, “Enough is enough!” It’s possible that they’re just irritated about the high gasoline prices, but I think it’s more than that. I believe that some are just fed up with the politically correct nonsense that has all but paralyzed this country for far too long. Many hard-working tax payers are wondering why we have not been allowed to drill in ANWR, off the coasts, and in Utah/Colorado.

Citizens are angry because the District of Columbia has wrongfully denied law-abiding citizens the right to defend themselves and their loved ones. In fact, that happens far too often in many states that virtually ignore the content of the Second Amendment. Our elected officials act as if they are doing us a favor if they grant us a concealed carry permit instead of admitting that it is our Second Amendment right to keep and to bear arms.

They act as if they are doing us a favor if they let us keep 60% of what we’ve worked long and hard to earn. Why is 40% their share? Why do they think our children are theirs? It’s these “why” questions that Americans need to be asking on a daily basis. Washington, D.C. v. Heller passed by the narrowest of margins (5-4). If only one more liberal justice was seated on the court, Washington, D.C. would still be denying fundamental rights to its citizens; in essence, encouraging criminals and criminal activity and penalizing law-abiding citizens. The time to act is now. The Revolutionary War was fought over far less than what we’re experiencing today and it’s high time we remind our elected officials that they serve at our pleasure and not for their pocketbook. Having said that, we must possess the resolve to act and do everything within our power to remove those from office who have no respect for the Constitution—no matter which party they’re in.


[1] Andreas Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), p. 25.

[2] David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), p. 3.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Evangelicalism is such an elastic term that even open theists like Olsen and Pinnock can still be called evangelicals.

[5] David Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008), pp. 71-72.

[6] Walter Williams, Do the Right Thing, (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1995), p. 39.

[7] Ibid., 41.

[8] Ibid., 64.

[9] Ron Paul, The Revolution, (NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2008), p. 41.


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2 Comments:

Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

"Christian citizens are to obey those that the Lord has placed in authority over them."

Let's not forget, though, that our founders were wise in intentionally withholding legal authority from men. They vested authority in a document, i.e., the United States Constitution.

Presidents and Senators are not the authority per se. They are merely servants of the law, charged with its administration. Therefore, when they violate the law, it is our duty to challenge them and keep them in their place.

Lex rex!

5:28 PM  
Blogger Tim Bushong said...

GREAT post Ron. We are fed a line of nonsense from both parties- I actually sent $100 to Mr. Paul last December- and the judgement of God is heavy upon us. We who would trade liberty for security will end up with neither.

5:10 PM  

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