OF CONSCIENCE AND COURTHOUSES
From time immemorial, this link between self-government (the sometimes guilty and occasionally innocent conscience of individual persons) and the natural formation of a civil government (what happens when individual persons extend their consciences upon an entire city, state and nation) has existed. It is the link Of Conscience And Courthouses.
Like a weather vane pointing from the peak of a gabled roof in response to the wind that pushed it, my son Jonas’ behavior indicates the direction where his life is headed, and his behavior is in response to the “pushing” of my parental influence. Human behavior points toward something as certainly as it points away from other things. If a weather vane is pointing north, it must also be pointing away from the south. Along similar lines, the vast majority of adults (most especially seasoned school teachers) have at some point mumbled to themselves, “If that child’s parents don’t start doing their job, the kid’s going to end up in prison!” Human behavior points in a particular direction.
Men who are personally enslaved by sin will collectively produce a tyrannical form of civil government. After all, civil government is little more than the extension of the individual conscience upon a community, and in a democracy, it’s a contest between whose consciences will rule the day. For this same reason, men who are personally freed from the shackles of sin will have a proclivity toward producing liberty in their civil government. To say it another way, wicked men make wicked governments, and righteous men make righteous governments. Most people know this instinctively, even if they aren’t able to articulate it out loud.
My little boy Jonas will someday become a productive citizen defending the common good. I have as much ability to recognize this path as any other man has to determine where his arrow will fly based upon the direction of his aim. I only need to reflect upon his trajectory at 6 years old to determine this. My son will be a citizen that believes rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God, and rebellion against God is complicity with tyrants. He has been through his personal Garden of Eden and survived to tell the tale. By discovering the path that breaks the enslaving chains of sin and guilt, Jonas is well on his way toward a life of true liberty. Someday, as an adult, his interactions with others in his community will naturally become an extension of his own personal discovery of freedom.
Family government (good parenting) produces self-government (well-disciplined children), who then become good citizens who produce stable civil government. These truths of human nature lead us to a very important question:
At what point does my personal liberty — my self-government — reach its end, and the jurisdiction of civil government begin?
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines the word inalienable as “cannot be legally or justly alienated or transferred to another.” A government cannot legally or justly transfer its natural rights and corresponding duties to a particular individual. The individual is incapable of the duty connected to such a right. For example, with the exception of the mythical boy from the planet Krypton, one lone man cannot defend a national border by himself. One lone soul cannot ensure domestic tranquility. Similarly, an individual cannot legally or justly transfer to a government his own right and connected duty to experience and express compassion. Can a government cry or laugh? Does a government grieve? Does it feel hope? Can a government dream? No, no, no, and no. A government has no soul. It is not human. It is not biological, and therefore cannot feel anything.
If it is true, as our Declaration of Independence claims, that individual human beings are born with inalienable, God-given rights, would it also be true that civil government also has God-given inalienable rights? Because a government is not biological some understandably argue that governments do not have rights, but merely possess powers instead. While it is certainly true that powers are not necessarily the same as rights, in the context of the meaning of the word “inalienable,” I confess I am prone to disagree on this point.
Without tripping over distracting semantic arguments, surely a human has an inalienable right to exist; therefore, we say he possesses a natural right to defend himself. One must assume, then (particularly Christians who believe God both created and authorized government to exist), that a government also has, in a similar sense, an inalienable right to exist, and therefore, retains a natural right to defend itself as well. It would seem that individuals and the governments they form both have rights, but where is the line between self and civil government drawn, and by what authority?
Regardless of who you ask, and whose answers you choose to believe, world history has taught us a lesson. We should have learned by now that inside these two all-encompassing questions (Where is the line between self and civil government drawn, and by what authority?) rests the sole source of countless bloody revolutions, rebellions, usurpations and coups d’état (maybe a peaceful election or two). Honest men know the opposing answers cannot coexist — they cannot all be right at the same time — so the geo-political battles continue, most with, and some without bullets.
Rose Wilder Lane once wrote of these warring factions among us, one in particular, which erringly insists it possesses the one and only true answer to these two questions (and consequentially, that all men who offer an opposing view, should be exterminated from the face of the earth). We infer from her description the illogical inconsistency of communism: “…the communist is looking for the Authority that controls men, and taking for granted that the man does not control himself… A woman does not control her gas range, it controls her. Does it? Since a communist does not know that individuals control themselves, he sees them as cells in Society, which (he believes) has a Great Spirit that is to the individual what the swarm is to the bee.”
Somewhere on the opposite end of the political spectrum (where Communists can’t serve their cold, sticky porridge), can be found the “rugged individualist,” the so-called “Libertarian.” Though he is little more than an intellectual pirate of Christian religious philosophy, he nearly always denies this fact, claiming his political philosophy to be the product of non-religious academic innovation. He does this, in some cases, because he is overtly dishonest with history, or at the very least, unappreciative of liberty in its historical context as the exclusive production of Christian theology (or both). In other instances, it is perhaps that he (along with other secular-humanists of most every stripe in the western world, be they “Republican,” “Democrat” or “Independent”) subconsciously pilfers the ancient intellectual treasures produced by the Bible literacy of others, in order to make sense of his own world. As they say, “Nature [and the mind] abhors a vacuum.”
On occasion, in an effort to prove that his concepts of liberty do not require any religious context to exist, the Libertarian may be found announcing he is an “atheist Libertarian,” loudly espousing the humanist version of “rights for every man!” But alas, liberty does not come from nothing! As Bojidar Marinov once put it, “Secular libertarianism, by its very rejection of [a] transcendent system of law and morality…is only an attempt to fight something with nothing; fighting something with nothing only perpetuates tyranny, it doesn’t produce true liberty in the society.”
The Libertarian’s denial that his own philosophy cannot exist outside of the context of Divine law expressed through the Judeo/Christian ethic, is something, ironically, that even Karl Marx (the political “Prince of Darkness”) understood. Indeed, this same man that Dr. Clarence Manion once described as “prophet of the modern Socialist-Communist political and economic dispensation” knew that the origin of “rugged individualism” was Christianity. Marx wrote:
“The democratic concept of man is false, because it is Christian. The democratic concept holds that each man is a sovereign being. This is the illusion, dream and postulate of Christianity.”
Dr. Manion continues, “One hundred years after Karl Marx thus wrote off the importance of the individual human personality in that derisive condemnation of Christianity, Adolf Hitler made his decisive bid for the control of Europe on what he represented to be a drive against Communism. Nevertheless, this is what Hitler said about the inalienable rights of the individual man:
‘To the Christian doctrine of infinite significance of the individual human soul, I oppose with icy clarity the saving doctrine of the nothingness and insignificance of the human being. ’”
At this point in the writing one might ask, “What exactly is an atheist Libertarian? What would he do if he were ever elected to public office?” Allow me to explain. When elected to public office, he is your local neighborhood official who believes, in the words of Walter Block, an atheist Libertarian fellow of Loyola University, “…libertarianism is solely a political philosophy. It asks one and only one question: Under what conditions is the use of violence justified? And it gives one and only one answer: Violence can be used only in response, or reaction to, a prior violation of private property rights.”
The Libertarian must lean upon the backdrop of Judeo/Christian philosophy in order to make sense of the world around him. He clings to the 8th commandment of the Decalogue as his “one and only one question” through which all political decisions are allegedly filtered, at the expense of the other nine commands of God, all while denying that the source of his so-called intellectual plagiarism is the Law of God — specifically, the Law declared by Whom the Declaration calls “Supreme Judge of the World.”
Consequentially, Libertarian apologist Tom Mullen further believes (along with Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, and Professor Walter Block) that “all government action is violent action.” Ask him why he believes this, and he will bring up something as seemingly insignificant as a parking ticket and wryly ask, “What happens if you do not pay the ticket?” Next, he will answer his own rhetorical question, “If you don’t pay the ticket, and if you continue to refuse to cooperate with the actions of government, you will be punished. Therefore, you see, all government action is violent action, if carried to its logical conclusion.” (If you wish to frustrate his lesson simply ask him to explain how awarding the American Medal of Freedom to a celebrated civilian remains consistent with his theory of “violent action.”)
Mullen describes this kind of interaction between the Libertarian and a poor ignorant stooge (non-libertarian) this way:
“You: Suppose that I do not wish to participate in Medicare and withhold only that percentage of my payroll taxes that would otherwise go to fund it. In return, I agree not to make use of any of the Medicare benefits. What will happen to me?
Him/Her: You will be charged with income tax evasion.
You: What if I don’t answer the charge?
Him/Her: You will be arrested.
You: What if I do not agree to submit to the arrest?
Him/Her: You will be physically forced to submit.
You: And if I resist further?
Him/Her: (reluctantly) You will be killed.
You: So, you now agree that we are forced to participate in Medicare under the threat of violence, correct?
Him/Her: (even more reluctantly) Yes.
You: Is there any government tax, law or regulation that we are not similarly forced to participate in under the threat of violence?”
With these thoughts in the backdrop, I think we’re ready for development of a little parable in the modern vernacular — one designed to explain the interactions of government in the United States, in a simple way. With the reader’s permission, I would like to take my liberty (pardon the pun) and substitute the traditional opening line… “So, a libertarian, a conservative and a liberal walked into a bar…” with this: “An atheist Libertarian, a Christian Conservative and a liberal Democrat were elected to office.” Are you with me? I think that opening will do nicely for what I have in mind. (Pay particular attention to these three characters, as they will re-emerge on occasion throughout the remainder of this writing to help us digest truths about Christianity’s relation to politics.)
Let’s say this particular atheist Libertarian is elected to public office. While in office, he is confronted with a bill that necessitates an up or down vote. While his natural instinct is to abstain, or simply vote “present” (go figure), he realizes that no other Libertarian will ever be elected again if each refuses to participate in their respective duties as representatives of the people who went to the trouble of voting for them. He further wishes to avoid the stigma generated by the logical conclusion of his own arguments — that all government action is violent and, as the reasoning goes, should be shunned. He does not relish the thought that the public may discover his libertarianism is little more than a particular variety of utopian anarchism. (Anarchists wish for a world where no local, state or federal government exists, and private property is violently defended — and justly defended, they claim ever so piously — in tribal fashion.)
Reluctantly, he chooses to protect the cherished title “Libertarian” and avoid the infamy of the more accurate title “Inconsistent Anarchist,” so he decides to participate by offering an up or down vote on a proposed bill. He dutifully reviews the bill and makes the decision to vote “no” on what is a proposed tax increase. He votes this way because it is a clear violation of his secular Libertarian doctrine which states, “Preservation of absolute private property rights, as it relates to justified use of force, is the single (and only) moral anchor for all political decisions.” His decision to vote “no” is perfectly acceptable to most of his constituents, and thankfully, celebrated by his cadre of fellow Libertarian pagans (who, by the way, are still tingling from the surreal experience of having personally witnessed a Libertarian who actually won an election).
As a result of this action, the atheist Libertarian is labeled a “hard-hearted radical” by the liberal Democrat.
The Christian Conservative is also elected to public office. He makes the decision to vote “no” on the same proposed tax-increase as the atheist Libertarian; he, too, believes it a violation of the sacred principles of private property ownership. He has strong convictions that the proposed tax-increase is a violation of God-given (unalienable) private property rights, because it is a violation of the Ten Commandments, specifically, the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” His decision to vote “no” is alleged to be “shoving his religion down the throats of the unwilling and unbelieving,” and he is publicly “christened” a “theocrat” (no doubt meant as an insult) by the atheist Libertarian and liberal Democrat alike.
The liberal Democrat is also elected to public office. He makes the decision to vote “yes” on the same tax-increase. Of course, he will vote “yes” (chortles), because he proposed the tax-hike! He did so because he believes, like Karl Marx before him (and from the deepest recesses of his compassionate heart and soul), that the greatest achievement of man is the production of a “benevolent” government, and such Shangri–la is only reached through the redistribution of wealth upon all men in equal sum. This redistribution through confiscation (tax) is the most virtuous act of a government!
He is branded as a “pinko” by the atheist Libertarian, and a “thief” by the Christian Conservative.
What is the truth? Which one did the right thing? You’ll certainly know the answer to that question by the end of this writing. Meanwhile, the fact remains that all three officials applied their own personal THEOLOGY to their decision to vote on a proposed tax-increase. If we borrow the definition of “violent action” from the atheist Libertarian, “all government action is violent action,” we are left to conclude that all three officials apparently “used illegitimate force” against the will of another faction (particularly from the Democrat’s point of view).
Conclusion: All governments of the world, as well as the individuals who operate under their respective umbrellas, are “theocracies.” What differentiates between them is found in the answer to the question, as radio host Steve Deace once quipped, “Who is Theo?” Once the identity of “Theo” is discovered, the answer to the next question is of equal and critical significance: “Is ‘Theo’ righteous enough to produce authentic justice and liberty?”
Rose Wilder Lane so beautifully wrote, “So far as I know, only the American Indians called this intangible Authority [Theo], ‘The Great Spirit.’ Savages called it ‘Tabu.’ Spartans called it ‘Sparta.’ My Dukhagin [Albanian] friends called it the ‘Law of Lek.’ Many groups of communists living in these States call it ‘God.’ Marx called it ‘The Will of the Masses’ and ‘The Proletarian State.’ Communists in this country [America] now call their authority, ‘The Party Line,’ and it lives in Moscow.”
The goal of my book a STORM a MESSAGE a BOTTLE is to reveal the only true answers that HAVE ever and CAN ever bring everlasting liberty, equality and fraternity to mankind on earth — those answers given long ago by earth’s Divine Creator. Become a reader and together, we will discover answers to the two-fold question: Where is the line between self and civil government drawn, and by what authority?
In the pursuit of these two answers, one must launch into an exploration of the Creator’s intervention in human affairs through both the type and anti-type of Moses and Christ. I welcome you to join me on the journey here.