Sunday, July 31, 2005

More About the New King

I see that Doug Newman's had some interesting things to say about the most recently nominated candidate philospher-king. As always, it's a pleasure to recommend Mr. Newman's work to your attention.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Meet the New King -- Same As the Old King

The Constitution, Article III, Section 1, "Federal Courts." The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

And, from section 2 of the same article, "Jurisdiction of Federal Courts:" ... In all other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

So, what do we learn here? Several things, I think. For one thing, the drafters of the Constitution were promiscuous scatterers of gratuitous commas, and their capitalization practices remind us of the German heritage of English (the Germans, after all, capitalize all nouns). But, seriously: we also see that, if we were in fact governed by our Constitution, as we are not, the nomination of a judge to the supreme Court would be vastly less important to us than we now think it is.

Notice, first of all, that judges can be gotten rid of by means other than bloody revolution, or waiting for them to die, or at least to get really, really old. Since they hold their offices during "good behavior," they cease to hold them when their good behavior has ceased. They can be impeached and removed. What would constitute bad behavior? Well, in a government allegedly based on the principle that separated powers are less easily abused than concentrated ones, we can surely start with the usurpation of the powers of one branch of government by another. "Conservatives" affect to be upset by what they call judicial activism: legislation from the bench. Well and good, say I; and if conservatives are actually upset about judicial usurpation, there are Constitutional remedies available. The usurpers can be impeached, per section 1; or their jursdiction may be curtailed by the Congress, as provided in section 2. (We can also note from section 2 that the jurisdiction of the federal courts is supposed to be limited to the kinds of cases enumerated there. Under the usurpatory regime that has developed, of course, absolutely nothing is outside the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.) Do our "conservative" politicians seek such Constitutional correction? Don't make me laugh.

In fact, "judicial activism" has no opponents in government. The Left enjoys the results of the usurpations directly, as socialism and various perverse social novelties can be advanced by decree much faster than through the legislature. And to the Right, each judicial outrage functions as a wonderfully-useful form of political pornography, stirring the outrage of the electorate who can then be told that they'd best vote Republican, unless they want the Left to install "bad" judges. How many times has James Dobson declared a presidential election to be "the most crucial election of our times," since it supposedly offers the chance to purge the courts of all those Bolshie nosewipes and install some real Americans instead? You'd think that my red-state brethren would notice, at some point, that the Court is populated by seven "Republican" appointees ... and yet, somehow, Roe v. Wade is still "the law of the land." How much longer shall we keep doing exactly the same thing, while expecting a very different result?

When one finds oneself being ruled by tyrants, the thing to do is to break the tyranny -- not speculate endlessly about whether the incoming replacement tyrant is slightly more or less horrible than the outgoing one. Don't just try to put a little better grade of boy in the tyrant's office -- get rid of the accursed office. Maybe John Roberts is a nice guy, and maybe he's not. I don't care. What is certain is that his appointment and confirmation won't change anything fundamental, or he wouldn't be "in position" today. Our masters aren't about to let us do anything foolish, you know.

Monday, July 18, 2005

For my zillions of regular readers ...

... this place will be even quieter than usual this week ... I'm being sent on the road by the day job. Catch you-all later -- all one-and-a-half of you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Caesar's Church, Part 2

In response to reader TW's comment from a couple of posts ago: this one.

Where to start, on the relationship between church and state in America? To begin, it is probably useful to say exactly what "church" I'm talking about. By far the most prevalent church in the U.S. is that of what I'll call the American Civic Religion. The American Civic Religion (ACR, for short) is not -- to say the least! -- based on the New Testament, in terms of its theology in general and its soteriology in particular. The ACR seems loosely based on the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, as interpreted by the strict principle that God grades on the curve, and that a heavenly destination is assured, as long as I can identify a reasonable number of people who sin more spectacularly than I do (Hitler is useful for this purpose) and rich people who buy fewer Girl Scout cookies than I do (Martha Stewart bats well in this spot in the lineup). In the ACR, everybody is like an American driver. Almost every American driver describes himself as a better-than-average driver; similarly, in the ACR, almost everyone is convinced that he's a better-than-average person. And since God, like a kindly high-school teacher, grades on a generous curve, no one who's better than average has anything to worry about, in terms of lakes-o-fire vs streets-o-gold.

The "A" in ACR is very important. To the extent that we learned our ACR catechism (by osmosis, more or less) in the government schools, we worship a composite deity, which I'll call "Godduncountry." We don't consciously think of him by that name, or in that way; but that's who we, as a matter of practical fact, believe in. If you're as old as I am, you can remember how the teacher, in the early elementary grades, started out the school day by leading the class in recitations of the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. It was a basic assumption of life, for all of we young catechumens in the ACR, that the reason why America was manifestly the Greatest Country in the World was that Godduncountry was on our side, while the Russkies and Chicoms and Krauts and Japs were having to make do with Marx and Mao and Adolf and Hirohito. And obviously they weren't much of a match for Godduncountry.

Godduncountry was the explanation for what might otherwise have seemed prohibitively unlikely: that we just happened to have been born in the only country in all of human history that was, always had been, and always would be completely in the right about everything. Well, maybe that's not quite fair; there seemed to be some grudging acknowledgement that Indians had been treated a little shabbily, and the African slaves may have had a complaint coming, too. But those injustices were safely in the past, and those who had actually perpetrated them had already gone on to their eternal reward. We could afford to be big about these things. After all, nobody's perfect, and even those slaveowners and Injun-hunters had still been above-average people, and Godduncountry grades on the curve, right?

I interrupt this post now to hope that I'm not sounding too smug about the ACR. I have no reason to be; after all, I've spent the large majority of my life as a faithful son of the ACR, serving Godduncountry gladly. But I was wrong to do so.

The trouble with Godduncountry is that he's an idol. He isn't really there. We made him -- not so much with our hands as with our thoughts. And the real God, the living God of the Bible, is not an enthusiast for idols. As He said in Exodus 20, verses 2-7:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

It is, I think, entirely bad enough that children in the government schools are made (more or less) to recite the so-called "Pledge of Allegiance," the work of a socialist and Baptist minister in 1892. It is and was intended to be political propaganda (" ... one nation, indivisible ..." is obviously a position on secession, the propriety of which the Founders took for granted). But, even more invidiously, it is a pledge of allegiance. Ultimately, how many allegiances can one person give? Only one. The only way we can bear a Biblical allegiance to God, and to the flag "and the Republic for which it stands" is if we somehow know, in advance, that the two can never conflict. God and country must be one and the same: Godduncountry. The thing is patently ridiculous. Can anyone look at the history of the USA, or any other nation, and see an identity of that nation with the God of the Bible? The biblical God is unchanging. But, according to our laws, right and wrong are in a continual state of change; they flow freely -- mostly downhill, of course.

The recitation of the Pledge is an act of worship to the idol Godduncountry. And when my church displays the Stars and Stripes up front, in what is supposed to be a service of worship to God, and we're asked to recite the pledge to an idol ... well, I get a little hot about that. I need to be elsewhere, if that really must happen.

C.S. Lewis, in one of the Narnia books (The Last Battle), writes of a deception in Narnia in which the Christ figure, Aslan the lion, is merged with a demonic false god called Tash. The Narnians are assured that all modern, enlightened thinkers know that Tash and Aslan are just two names for the same god, whom they call "Tashlan." When the real Aslan turns up, he's not amused. I'd just as soon that Tashlan -- or Godduncountry -- stayed out of my church.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Terror! Quick, Crack Down on Us!

The British have bought into the surveillance/security state paradigm even more thoroughly than Americans have. In England, and particularly in London, police surveillance cameras are nearly ubiquitous. (Don't worry, though; America's not far behind, and is closing the gap.) We see in this morning's news one of the problems with trading one's privacy and liberties for state-provided security: the security's an illusion.

From the above-linked news story:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the blasts were "mass murder" carried out by terrorists bent on "indiscriminate ... slaughter."

Livingstone, in Singapore where he supported London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, said: "I want to say one thing: This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners.

Someone needs to calm Mayor Livingstone down, and explain to him that there's always collateral damage in any war. War's a dirty business, you see, and someone always gets hurt or killed, even civilians. It's just that the slaughter of civilians is a lot more agreeable when they're faraway wogs. Sure, London's taken a little collateral damage, but let's have some perspective: it didn't exactly get the Fallujah treatment, now, did it?

As this is written, my news sources weren't reporting whether El Presidente Supremo and Emperor of the Known Universe Jorge Dubya Bush had yet declared that we're fighting the turrsts in London so we won't have to fight them in New Jersey.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Caesar's Church

Here we go again. I am so tired of this nonsense.

July 3 was a Sunday. That's no news to anyone who has a calendar handy. So, I was at my church. We have a Sunday School hour at 9, followed by a worship service at 10. Pretty standard arrangement. I teach a Sunday School class during the first hour, and my wife does a "children's church" during the second, when there are enough children on hand to warrant it. (My church is quite small.)

I don't know why I always let myself be surprised by these things, but for some reason, I just didn't make the calendar connection -- until I got a look at the bulletin, that is. The pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag. The pale imitation "pledge of allegiance" to the "Christian flag." (I will confess my ignorance of the provenance of this latter flag, but I'll bet my house payment that it's quite recent, on the time scale of, say, the history of the Christian church.) The singing of the national anthem. "God Bless America." And, of course, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Having seen this, I did not enter the "worship" service. I just wasn't up to the pure, concentrated idolatry of it all. If my wife hadn't had children's church customers, we'd have simply gone home. As it was, I went and assisted her for the hour.

"Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's," said Jesus, as reported in Matthew chapter 22. The reader is encouraged to read that chapter as a whole, for the instructive context of these words. Yes, we live in this fallen world, subject to the temporal power of its fallen rulers. Yes, we have to pay taxes. Yes, we have to get a permit from the county every time our flatulence comes out sideways. Yes, Caesar is running things around here. But why, oh why, would we want to assemble ourselves on the Lord's day and then voluntarily sing the songs of Caesar, and pledge him our fealty? How will we claim to be doing any better than the 1st century Jewish authorities did, who proclaimed, "We have no king but Caesar?"

I don't want to go out there and resume my search for a church. For one thing, where I'm at now, we don't do the Sunday morning rock 'n' roll (a rant for another time). And for another thing, I believe the red-white-and-blue idolatry is quite universal in the American evangelical church. I've simply got to remember that you skip the Sunday before July 4. And, to be safe, the same goes for Memorial Day, and the so-called "Veterans' Day," too.

You know, it would be one thing if this wretched business were compulsory. On one level, it would be understandable if the secret police were watching, ready to put the pastor on report if the patriotic niceties were slighted. But this is voluntary. We do this to ourselves, over and over again.

God help us, I say without a trace of irony. God wake us up. That would be a help.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Terror From the Skies!

It seems that our exalted leaders have again been sent scurrying for shelter by the apparition of a light airplane. Their response to the dreaded Beechcraft is much the same as a rabbit's response to the hawk's shadow on the ground: run!

As is often the case, the Bible has a succinct comment on the situation:

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)

Do you suppose our supervisors' sleep is often troubled?

I hope so.