Monday, July 14, 2008


I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about politics. I tend to shy away from even talking about it, because no matter who you talk to, discussions are either preaching to the choir (which while providing some sense of belonging and encouragement, seem futile), or disagreement, (which it seems like everyone always has some extra tidbit of information or fact that the other cannot prove or disprove which apparently seals the deal on the argument). So, needless to say, talking about politics bugs me.

But I thought I might reflect some on some of the attitudes in politics that bother me.

1) Entitlement
It is not difficult to find somebody who feels entitled to something. In America we love to appeal to our rights to various things. We act and talk as if anything we individually want should be within the bounds of our rights. However, many of these are hard to sustain outside the basic rights of freedom (within the bounds of the law) and security. Freedom of course must include speech, religion, thought and action. But the reality is the government exists not to provide for us, but to restrain evil. Please note that I stress “restrain”. Government is an imperfect institution that attempts to restrain the influence of evil so that people can live, and so that humanity does not self destruct. But it is impossible for government to eradicate evil, because the solution to evil in humanity is far beyond any mere human institution. Biblically, we know that only through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection can evil be eradicated.
Governments exist to provide some sense of order and control of evil in humanity. Although unpopular, this is essentially legislating a basic moral system. This system includes murder, theft, and harm. Beyond this though, government has not right to function.
So the government does not “owe” us anything. Our taxes are supposed to secure us from outside attack, provide for policing, some control to sustain a basic level of order, and other areas of safety (such as aid in natural disaster, fire, etc.). Further, the government is not responsible for providing basic necessities or luxuries. The idea of people living off of welfare simply because of their laziness is disgusting, and clearly contradicts the biblical principle of 2 Thess. 3:10: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat”.
Finally, this attitude towards entitlement on many levels is a lazy attitude. It is relegating all responsibility (or most of it) to someone else, and for many the easiest target is the government.

2) Government and good will
In a similar vein, many seem to presuppose that the government is responsible for good will towards those in need, whether foreign or abroad. This simple is not a reasonable expectation of an institution that is designed to restrain evil. Good will is virtuous, but it must be enacted freely by individuals or institutions. Government is not designed to provide good will to others. There are definite ways that government can assist good will movements, but government is too inefficient and poorly designed to solely be responsible for good will.

3) War
Another troubling attitude is towards war. For governments to properly restrain evil, sometimes war is necessary. There is far too much evil in the world for any government to effectively police the world, (and no government is pure enough to objectively function as such). But when there are powers in place that pose a real threat, government is responsible to respond in an appropriate way. Many are cynical towards the reality of war in humanity. It is all to common in science fiction to have some outsider reflect on the savagery of humanity, that we kill one another and are so naturally violent. This is a true reflection of humanity, and attempting to distance ourselves as if the seeds of such destruction are not in us is only naive and self deception. Humanities’ violence IS a tragedy, but we cannot ignore the source of this problem. It is not some “barbaric notion” that we will evolve away from, but it is at our very core. Biblically, this is unmistakably our sin nature. Roddenberry’s vision of the future was that humanity would evolve away from this, but any examination of history will make clear that we aren’t doing any better. As civilization has progressed, many of us are free from much of the chaos and destruction of life, but this does not mean we have removed the core reasons why such chaos exists in the world. We have only built a wall high enough that we can sometimes forget about it. For many, this may sound like a criticism of the western world, and that we should be more sensitive and “enlightened” about the plight of the 3rd world. At some level, this is certainly true. But at another, I think we should also recognize that all humans are sinful, and although we may have some luxuries the 3rd world doesn’t have, we also have a whole different set of issues and problems that to them are ludicrous. And yet, in all of this, even the “ideal” socialized countries of western Europe, sin still reign sin all humanity.
All of this to say that war is necessary. We should grieve the losses in Iraq, but I am still strongly convinced that it was a right thing. Of course there are other places where things were worse, but there were a number of necessary ingredients involved to make Iraq viable. (Such ingredients that currently are not setup for places such as Iran and North Korea). Further, establishing a peaceful, democratic state in Iraq can ultimately only be good for stabilizing such a turbulent region. We can point to the suffering of Iraqis, and how the new government is only stirring up more trouble in the Middle East, but can we really be foolish enough to accuse the whole venture as wrong? When there are forces and governments bent on evil and not restraining it, we can only expect that when we act to bring such restraint, they will only resist. Such restraint is simply not achieved by pacifism, and it is truly tragic that countries that suffered at the hands of Nazism still are proponents of such a philosophy.
It would be difficult in our globalized world to have another Hitler, (though surely not impossible). But leaders such as Saddam that posture themselves and support terrorist organizations are only trying to bring chaos and destruction to the world. If Sadam brought order (though oppressive), yet still sought to bring chaos and evil to the world, is it not ultimately right (and the right function of government) to remove such leadership? This undoubtedly would (and has) cause suffering, but if its for a greater good, I think it is necessary. Bush may have his failings on many levels, but I do think he has done a right thing in Iraq, and the fruits of his persistent will are beginning to show. My fear is that when Obama becomes president (which it seems all but likely will happen) that he will be so concerned with appeasing the mass that he will undo some of the good that Bush has begun. This attitude towards war is very nearsighted, idealistic, and naive.

4) Cynicism
Most people have some level or another of cynicism towards to government. It is only “out to get you”, it is only there to control you, and in an almost child-like fashion, it is only there to spoil our fun. This attitude presupposes that the government is always corrupt, always out to oppress, and the people who lead in government are only out to secure more power for themselves. These things are certainly true of some, (if not many), but the institution of government is not a singular identity that can rightly be blamed for such things. Such blame is only appropriate when dealing with a dictator. Under more democratic systems, checks and balances are in place to hopefully sustain some level of balance (although admittedly these rarely work perfectly). Further, when governments do function wrongly, in a democratic system it is only the fault of the people. If we elect officials who appealed to us visually and who seduced us with flattery and unsubstantiated promises, and yet prove to lack character, substance, and right vision, then it is our fault for being superficial.

5) Equality
There seems to be a common notion that equality on every level is good. This is often relegated to the function of government to impose this level of equality. Of course inequality in areas such as race are clearly wrong, but other areas of equality such as economic seem hardly fit. Communism (and to a lesser degree socialism) has made clear that human nature is the antithesis of economic equality. It is sad when there is a great disparity between the poor and rich, but in the ideal situation wealth should reflect work. This is a necessary motivating principle for humanity to function. Very few people gain wealth simply by ancestry. It is not the role of government to make sure all resources and opportunities are evenly distributed. If equality at a basic level is truly a virtue, then this must be taught and must operate from the mass, and not legislated.

In summary, here is what I think government is responsible for:

1) Restraint of evil
- Basic ethical code and enforcement of it (including appropriate consequences)
- Protection of citizens from outside evil
- Consequences for unrestrained evil
- Sustain balance of security and freedom (even though these two are in antithesis)

2) Order
- Basic level of management of financial system
- Transit system
- Some basic checks and balances to encourage fair commerce
(though it is difficult for government to be solely responsible for fair commerce)
3) Foreign
- Maintaining good relations with other countries to encourage trade
- Restraint of evil against nation
(note, this must be balanced with a sense of justice towards foreign nations. It would be wrong to commit an injustice towards another nation in the name of security.)

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