Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Freedom, Government, and Your Soul

Some years ago, in an Introduction to Political Thought course I was teaching, while we were discussing the American Constitution, I asked my 29 students if they would rather be free or safe.  All but one chose safety.  Monica, the lone dissenter, a girl who wore black to class every day, chose freedom.
When I asked her why, she said, “Unless you are free, you can never be safe.”
She was exactly right, of course.  Hers was an insight lost on too many contemporary Americans, who would much rather be safe than free.  For safety and security, they would willingly surrender to the nanny state all or part of nearly every freedom they have.  The nanny state is quite willing to provide for them in every way, from health care, to education, to housing, to retirement, to food subsidies -- as if government could live your life for you, and fulfill all your moral and personal responsibilities in your stead.  All government requires in return is that you sacrifice your independence and your inalienable responsibilities, which are the obverse of your inalienable rights.  (The inalienable rights that cannot be taken away imply responsibilities that cannot be forfeited or assigned.  Just as the rights are irrevocably yours; so are the obligations they entail.  If you want to keep them, rights and freedoms are challenges you must live up to.)  Government asks only that you become a permanent ward of the state, and vote in accordance with your dependency.  Too many modern Americans do not know what George MacDonald knew:  Security is a mortal’s greatest enemy.
You can never be what you were meant to be if you cede your responsibilities over to the state -- or to anything else.  To do so is to rob yourself of the chance to be yourself, to be the man or woman God intends.  He intends you to be conformed to the character of his Son, Whom no one ever accused of selling His soul to Caesar for a meal or a handful of coins, as if government were His God, bureaucrats were His bishops, and federally produced case manuals were His Bible.  Those things are not the means to freedom.  Truth is (John 8: 32).  And if you want to make free persons, you must bring them to the Truth (John 14: 6), not bind them to the state.  When governments operate as they ought, they are the protectors of freedom.  When they operate as now they often do, they are among its greatest enemies, and therefore also the enemies of sanctification and your soul.
Remember this:  Government money always comes at a price.  That price is your freedom and, therefore, your self-determination and spirituality.  If you expect to derive your security and your provisions from government and not from God or his people, then your very soul is stymied.  It was made for God, and for God only.  It cannot thrive or grow by feeding at the government trough.  Lift your eyes Higher, and your soul will follow.


P.S.  A few weeks later, after making her comment about human freedom and security, black-wearing Monica came to class dressed all white.
"Monica," I said, "you're wearing white!"
"Yeah, she replied, "I'm depressed."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Worship and Beauty, and the Difference Between Them

I don't think of aesthetics when I think of lambs or bulls getting their throats cut and being bled to death, or when I think of the gruesome sights, the disgusting smells, or the death shrieks and shudders that accompanied the relentless slaughter in the temple of God.
I don’t think of aesthetics when I think of the prophet Isaiah coming apart at the seams, or of the apostle John falling down on his face as if he were dead, when they got even a passing glimpse of God, into whose hands, if you fall, it is nothing short of terrifying.  In other words, the alleged aesthetic dimension of worship and of life with God has often been radically overplayed.
I certainly do not think of aesthetics when I consider the bloody anguish and horrid execution of Jesus on the cross, or the harrowing of Hell itself:  profundity and love, yes; aesthetics, no.
Nevertheless, I repeatedly hear folks say that they chose their church and their denomination, and that they evaluate the quality of their worship, on the basis of aesthetics -- a choice and reason foreign both to the Bible, in general, and to Christ, in particular.  Neither in His religious practice nor His teaching, does Jesus employ the concept of beauty either as a reason or a justification.  In no way does He consider beauty determinative for religious observance, or, if He does, He is completely silent on the matter.  According to Jesus, that’s not what worship is about; that's not how it proceeds.  It’s the same for Paul, of course.  For him, proper Christian worship is a matter of unity, truth, and seemliness, as he argues in 1 Corinthians 11, not of beauty.  As an apostle, Paul was many things; aesthete was not among them.  If it were, he would have been awed, not appalled, by the worship in Athens.  Both Jesus and Paul knew full well that Yahweh commanded the ancient Jews to worship Him in the ways He did because those ways were right, not because they were prettier or more pleasant than the ways of the Hittites or the Amalekites.
I am not saying beauty is to be despised or in any way undervalued.  It is not.  But beauty is no way to judge worship or to pick a church, things to be judged by their conformity to Christ’s teaching and practice, not our sense of visual or musical harmony, and not according to our artistic tastes and preferences, regardless of how elevated or refined we think them to be.  You don’t judge basketball teams or fire escape drills by aesthetics.  That’s not what they are about.  The same goes for worship and church selection.  If you do, you are assessing worship and making church choices on the basis of irrelevancies and tangentials.  You don't judge the quality of worship by aesthetics any more than you do by humor.  It's not about beauty; it's not about funny. 
As Ninian Comper advised, if you must have a church building (and it is by no means certain that you must), then the best way to measure its worth is its ability to bring worshipers to their knees as soon as they enter -- which is by no means the same as its beauty.  Lots of quite beautiful churches fail the test; lots of rather eclectic, confused, and unsymmetrical churches do it rather well.  A dirty jail cell or the sight of a bloody cross, ugly as they are, might do it far better than a cathedral, whether Gothic or Romanesque.  One must bear always in mind the distinction made by Sir John Betjeman between fa├žade and faith, so that, as he said, ear and eye do not outrank soul.
I’m not arguing for ugly buildings or for out-of-harmony hymns, the lyrics and melody line of which are twisted, deformed, and ill-suited to the purpose.  Nor am I saying that because beautiful buildings tend to evoke in us an aesthetic response, which we often mistake for worship, we therefore need ugly churches.  We do not.  Neither ugly hymns nor ugly buildings are the norm either.
Aesthetics is not the point; nor is its absence.  Biblical worship is the point.  But you wouldn’t know that from listening to Christians. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Support of Gingrich on Pro-family Amnesty

Newt Gingrich rightly proposes that we permit illegal aliens who have been here for, say, 25 years, who have a job, a generation or two of family history, and demonstrable ties to the community, to remain in the country, along with their families.  To break up that rooted, responsible, and productive family, Gingrich argues, is an anti-family action, and ought not be the policy of Republicans who wish to be truly pro-family.
In response to Gingrich’s proposal, I’ve heard a man ask, “But what if the illegal alien murders someone in your family, how pro-family is that?  The question is ill-conceived on several counts.
First, it is sub-rational.  It forgets that suppositions are not telling arguments.  We all can suppose things that support our views.  Doing so does not prove that we are right or that the other side is mistaken.  After all, one might suppose an illegal alien whose heroic actions saved the life of one of your family members.  And if you had deported that person, and as a result your son or daughter now were dead because the hero had been banished, how pro-family is that?
Second, to suppose that the person in question will become a murderer flies in the face of the evidence.  It ignores a quarter-century of peaceable character and conduct, such as getting and holding a significant job, paying taxes, getting married and raising a family, consistently paying rent or a mortgage, and community ties and contributions, like church membership -- none of which suggests in any meaningful way that we are dealing with a murderer.  If such persons are potential murderers, then we all are, including the person who made this insulting supposition.
In short, neither side in the debate, whether for or against Gingrich, will deem the other side’s suppositions convincing.  That’s because suppositions are not conclusive.
Third, and this is not a supposition:  There's typically a statute of limitations (or of repose) on crimes, especially non-violent crimes like this.   We rightly understand that the time to prosecute eventually runs out.  The statute of limitations is not a reward for crimes; it's a recognition that the intervening years normally yield new conditions and consequences that ought to be taken into account, conditions and consequences like the deterioration of evidence and of memory, on the one hand, and the unintentional punishment of innocent persons, such as the children who committed no crime, children who were born in America and are legal US citizens, on the other.  Those children committed no crime and must not be deported along with their parents in order to keep the family together.  Nor ought they to be deprived of their parents, if their parents are sent away without them.  That's not how we treat law-keeping, natural born citizens.
If possible, we might want to write a law to that effect, which Gingrich calls “creating legality.”

In Support of Gingrich on Pro-Family Amnesty

Newt Gingrich rightly proposes that we permit illegal aliens who have been here for, say, 25 years, who have a job, two or three generations of family history, and demonstrable ties to the community, to remain in the country, along with their families.  To break up that rooted, responsible, and productive family, Gingrich argues, is an anti-family action, and ought not be the policy of Republicans who wish to be truly pro-family.
In response to Gingrich’s proposal, I’ve heard a man ask, “But what if the illegal alien murders someone in your family, how pro-family is that?  The question is ill-conceived on several counts.
First, it is sub-rational.  It forgets that suppositions are not telling arguments.  We all can suppose things that support our views.  Such suppositions are easily conjured.  Conjuring them does not prove that we are right or that the other side is mistaken.  After all, one might just as easily suppose an illegal alien whose heroic actions saved the life of one of your family members.  And if you had deported that person, and as a result your son or daughter now were dead because the hero had been banished, how pro-family is that?
Second, to suppose that the person in question will become a murderer flies in the face of the evidence.  It ignores a quarter-century of peaceable character and conduct, such as getting and holding a significant job, paying taxes, getting married and raising a family, consistently paying rent or a mortgage, and community ties and contributions, like church membership -- none of which suggests in any meaningful way that we are dealing with a murderer.  If such persons are potential murderers, then we all are, including the person who made this insulting supposition.
In short, neither side in the debate, whether for or against Gingrich, will deem the other side’s suppositions convincing.  That’s because suppositions are not conclusive.
Third, and this is not a supposition:  There's typically a statute of limitations (or of repose) on crimes, especially non-violent crimes like this.   We rightly understand that the time to prosecute eventually runs out.  The statute of limitations is not a reward for crimes; it's a recognition that the intervening years normally yield new conditions and consequences that ought to be taken into account, conditions and consequences like the deterioration of evidence and of memory, on the one hand, and the unintentional punishment of innocent persons, such as the children who committed no crime, children who were born in America and are legal US citizens, on the other.  Those children committed no crime and must not be deported along with their parents in order to keep the family together.  Nor ought they to be deprived of their parents, if their parents are sent away without them.  That's not how we treat law-keeping, natural born citizens.
To the ideological purist, this approach might seem too conciliatory, too compromising.  But politics is the art of the possible, not the pure.  To deport more than 10 million persons seems neither possible nor good.  In most cases, the ideologically pure is not possible, though sometimes it is.  Given the enormity of the undertaking, I doubt that this is one of those times. 
We might want to write a law and a statute of limitations to enshrine Gingrich's chosen effect, which he calls “creating legality.”  When we do, we start the clock on the day of entry, or as close to it as we can reasonably determine.  To be clear, we are talking here about granting legal residency, not citizenship.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Study C. S. Lewis in Oxford -- Summer 2012


I am pleased to announce that we now are taking applications for the 2012 Oxford summer school on CS Lewis and the Inklings.
The course runs from May 29-June 24 and is worth five college credit hours.  Those hours normally transfer as either an English or a Religion/Theology course, whichever you select.  In some cases, I have seen colleges divide the credit as 3 hours English and 2 hours Religion — or vice versa. The credit hours come from Oxford.  But if for some reason you need American accreditation, they come from University of the Pacific.  The same holds true for your tutorial, if you elect to take one, except that it is 2 hours and reflects the nature of the course you select -- politics, history, sociology, etc.
Because the summer school organizers want to you have the experience of living in Oxford itself, and not in a dorm room, they put you in apartments around the city centre.  For example, students often are located in apartments on a street called Venneit Close, which is right along the Thames walkway.  Or you might be in beautiful multi-story brick homes in old North Oxford, or in apartments in the trendy Jericho area.
Your classes are normally held either in the OSAP offices, in the St. Mary the Virgin church library, in New College, or in Trinity College.  The location varies day by day so that you can get inside more Oxford buildings.  Your formal meal, with academic gowns, is in New College.  You can see some earlier students in gowns in the pictures provided on the poster.  In addition to the lectures by me and by my wife, we will have guest lecturers from Oxford itself, like Rev. Walter Hooper, Lewis’s personal secretary, and Rev. Michael Ward, who has written the fine book Planet Narnia.
The costs cover 5 hours tuition, lodging for three weeks (plus a free fourth week in your rooms after the course is over, if you’d like to stay on), all the field trips, and the formal dinner in New College.  It does not cover your meals or your travel.  If you want to take an additional tutorial course, it will cost $300 for the two hours of college credit.  In other words, you get half a semester’s credit, four weeks in Oxford, several field trips, and membership in New College and the Bodleian library for about $6200, tutorial included.
If you wish to apply, simply let me know your intentions, and have your official transcripts sent to me at:

Dr. Michael Bauman
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale, MI 49242

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.




Monday, November 14, 2011

A Small Excerpt From the Occupy Wall Street Rap Sheet

After posting Marybeth Hicks' comments yesterday about the childishness of OWS, I thought it might be useful to post a partial list of OWS offenses against reason, decency, and law in order to show the sorts of things to which Hicks objects.


2.     Madison, WI: 10-27-2011 — Madison Occupiers Lose Permit Due to Public Masturbation
4.     NY: 10/18/2011 — Thieves Preying on Fellow Protesters
6.     NY: 10/7/2011 — Occupiers Rush PoliceMore
7.     Cleveland: 10/18/2011 — ‘Occupy Cleveland’ Protester Alleges She Was Raped
9.     Seattle: 10/18/2011 — Man Accused of Exposing Self to Children Arrested
12.   Portland: 10/15/2011 — #OccupyPortland Protesters Sing “F*** The USA”
13.   Chicago: 10/17/2011 — COMMUNIST LEADER Cheered at Occupy Chicago
16.   Boston: 10/11/2011 — Boston Police Arrest Over 100 from Occupy Boston
17.   New York: 10/11/2011 — “You Can Have Sex with Animals.”
18.   New York: 10/15/2011 — Harassing Police with Accusations of Phony Injuries
23.   Los Angeles: 10/14/2011 – Anti-Semitic Protester at Occupy Wall Street
28.   New York: 10/4/2011 — Occupier Taunts Jewish Man
29.   Boston: 10/2011 — Occupiers Block Street
30.   New York: 10/2011 — Occupier Tries to Steal Police Officer’s Gun
31.   New York: 10/27/2011 — Occupiers Block Traffic, Get Arrested
32.   Oakland: 10/27/2011 — Occupiers Throw Garbage at Police
39.   Oakland: 10/19/2011 — #OccupyOakland Protesters Threaten Reporter
40.   Oakland: 10/26/2011 — Occupiers Scuffle with Police
41.   Oakland: 10/24/2011 — Protesters Storm, Vandalize, Shut Down Chase Bank
45.   NY: 10/22/2011 — #Occupy Kid: ‘Burn Wall Street, Burn!’
50.   Cleveland: 10/29/2011 — Rape Reported at Occupy Cleveland
54.   Glasgow: 10/26/2011 — Woman Gang-Raped
58.   Lawrence, KS: 10/25/2011 — Sexual Assault Reported at Occupy Camp
60.   Phoenix, AZ: 10/27/2011 — Neo-Nazis Patrol “Occupy Phoenix” With AR-15s
61.   Chicago: 10/26/2011 — Occupy Chicago Invades City Hall
68.   Albuquerque, NM: 10/26/2011 — Occupy Squatters Riot With Police
69.   San Diego: 10/25/2011 — Flag Used as Chew Toy by Occupier’s Dog
70.   Oakland: 10/25/2011 — Occupiers Throw Bottles at Police
73.   NY: 10/28/2011 — Fox 5 News Reporter Assaulted at OWS
75.   Nashville: 10/28/2011 — 30 Arrests Made at Wall St. Protest
78.   Los Angeles: 10/13/2011 — Roundup of Overt Occupy anti-Semitism
80.   Missoula, MT: 10/20/2011 — Drunk 11-Year-Old At Occupy Missoula, Adult Arrested
81.   Oakland: 10/28/2011 — Bounty Out On Police Officer?
82.   Manchester, NH: 10/28/2011 – Woman charged with pimping teen recruited at Occupy NH rally
83.   San Diego: 10/28/2011 – 40 Occupiers arrested
84.   Boston: 10/24/2011 — Occupy Boston Vandalism of Banks
87.   Seattle: 10/20/2011 — Two Possible Occupiers Charged With Assault
88.   Seattle: 10/18/2011 — Armed Felon Arrested at Occupy Seattle
91.   Seattle: 10/13/2011 — Cops Arrest Several Occupy Protesters
93.   Denver: 10/29/2011 — Protesters Clash with Police at OWS Denver
95.   Calgary, CN: 10/28/2011 — Occupiers do $40,000 in Property Damage
96.   Cincinnati, OH: 10/21/2011 — 23 Arrested, Remains of protests fill two dumpsters
97.   Sacramento: 10/19/2011 – 9 arrested in ‘Occupy Sacramento’ protest
98.   Sacramento: 10/13/2011 – Four More Occupy Sacramento Demonstrators Arrested
101.Austin, TX: 10/30/2011 – Austin Police arrest 38 Occupy Austin Protesters
102.NY: 10/30/2011 — Woman Assaulted in Her tent
104.Orlando, FL: 10/26/2011 – 2 Occupy Orlando protesters arrested for trespass
106.Asheville, NC: 10/30/2011 – Occupiers Clash with Homeless in Asheville
107.Nationwide: 10/27/2011 — Pro-Occupy Site claims 2511 Arrests Thus Far
108.Fort Worth, TX: 10/16/2011 — Arrests at Occupy Fort Worth Protest
109.NY: 10/29/2011 — Three Incidents of Anti-Semitism
112.Baltimore: 10/31/2011 — Woman Claims She was Raped at #OccupyBaltimore
115.Santa Barbara, CA: 10/5/2011 — Occupiers Defy Police
116.Santa Barbara, CA: 10/6/2011 — 8 Occupiers Arrested
119.Richmond, VA: 10/31/2011 — Arrests of Occupiers in Richmond
125.Palm Desert, CA: 11/1/2011 — Occupiers Arrested
126.Tampa, FL: 10/24/2011 — Six Occupiers Arrested
129.Oakland, CA: 11/3/2011 — Rallies Turn Violent
130.Seattle, WA: 11/2/2011 — Cops, Protesters Clash
131.Oakland, CA: 11/3/2011 — Protests Degenerate Into Chaos
132.Tulsa, OK: 11/2/2011 — Occupiers Clash With Police
133.Sacramento, CA: 11/2/2011 — Occupiers Smash County Vehicle Windows
134.Philadelphia: 11/2/2011 — Occupiers Arrested
135.Charlottesville, VA: 11/1/2011 — Underage Drinking at Occupy Charlottesville Site
140.Oakland, CA: 11-3-2011 — Occupy-Friendly Business Vandalized
141.Asheville, NC: 11/3/2011 — 24 Occupiers Arrested
142.Raleigh, NC: 10/28/2011 – Eight at Occupy Raleigh Arrested After Standoff
145.Wash DC: 11/4/2011 — Occupier Uses Child as Human Shield — Video
146.Wash DC: 11/4/2011 — Occupiers Try to Storm Americans for Prosperity Event — Video
147.Omaha, NE: 11/3/2011 — Three Occupiers Arrested
149.Los Angeles: 10/28/2011 — Drug Use and Property Damage
151.Boston, MA: 11/4/2011 — Occupiers Storm Israeli Consulate; Anti-Israel Chants — Video
152.Vancouver, CN: 11/5/2011 – Occupy Vancouver Death Dooms Protest Camp
153.Fort Collins, CO: 11/4/2011 — Occupier Arrested for Setting Fire to Condo Complex$10M Damage
154.Chula Vista, CA: 11/6/2011 — Underage Girl Missing From Occupy Protests
156.Dallas, TX: 11/5/2011 — Eight Arrests at Dallas Bank Protest
157.Olympia, WA: 11/5/2011 – Two Occupy Protesters Arrested
160.Worcester, MA: 11/6/2011 — 25 Occupiers Arrested
161.Milwaukee, WI: 11/2/2011 — Photojournalist, Two others Arrested at ProtestVideo
162.Milwaukee, WI: 10/20/2011 — Police Confront Occupier –Video … Arrested
163.Wash. DC: 11/5/2011 — Rampaging Occupiers Attack 78 Year-Old Woman — Video
164.Rochester, NY: 11/3/2011 — 161 Occupiers Arrested at Park
167.Asheville, NC: 11/5/2011 – Four Occupiers Arrested
168.Honolulu, HI: 11/6/2011 — Police Arrest Half-Dozen Occupiers
169.Waikiki, HI: 11/7/2011 — Two Dozen Occupiers Arrested
172.Augusta, GA: 10/28/2011 — Occupier Arrested in Knife Threat
174.Sacramento, CA: 11/7/2011 — Homeless Clash With Occupy Protesters At Park
175.New Orleans: 11/8/2011 — Man Dead for Two Days Found in Occupy Encampment
177.Los Angeles: 11/7/2011 — Occupiers Shut Down Burger King — Video
178.Atlanta, GA: 11/6/2011 — Occupiers Arrested After Attacking Police
179.St. Louis, MO: 11/9/2011 — Occupiers Hack Into Mayor’s Website
181.Vancouver, CN: 11/8/2011 — Occupiers Bite Two Police Officers
182.Wash DC: 11/8/2011 — Occupiers Use Children to Block Traffic — Video
183.Portland, OR: 11/9/2011 — Occupiers Threaten Citizen-Journalist – Video
184.Wash DC: 11/8/2011 — Occupiers Use Racial Taunts Against Black Security Guard — Video
185.Eureka, CA: 11/9/2011 — Occupier Defecates in Bank – Video
186.Wash DC: 11/5/2011 – Occupiers Menace Children, Female Reporter – Video
187.Portland, OR: 11/8/2011 — Occupiers Menace News Crew – Video
190.San Francisco, CA: 11/10/2011 — Occupier Threatens Park Ranger
191.Burlington, VT: 11/10/2011 — Veteran Shoots Self at Encampment
192.Oakland, CA: 11/3/2011 — ‘Occupy Oakland’ Goes After Cop
193.NYC: 11/10/2011 — EMT Assaulted at Occupy Wall Street
194.San Diego, CA: 11/10/2011 — Occupier Attacks Woman with Camera
195.Berekely, CA: 11/10/2011 — 39 Occupiers Arrested
196.Westwood, CA: 11/9/2011 — 11 Occupiers Arrested for Blocking Traffic
197.Fresno, CA: 11/9/2011 — 40 Occupiers Arrested
198.Toledo, OH: 11/1/2011 — 2 Occupiers Arrested
199.Houston, TX: 11/9/2011 — 10 Occupiers Arrested
201.Oakland, CA: 11/10/2011: Fatal Shooting Over Drugs
204.Tampa, FL 11/10/2011 — Three Occupiers Arrested
205.Portland, OR: 11/10/2011 — Occupiers Billed for Police Car Vandalism
207.Denver, CO: 11/11/2011 — Occupiers Storm BlogCon11One Arrest
208.Salt Lake City, UT: 11/12/2011 — Protest Shut Down After Body Discovered In Tent
209.San Francisco: 11/8/2011 — Shoplifting, Fights On The Rise Around Encampment
210.San Francisco: 11/10/2011 — Occupiers Accused of Ferry Building Thefts, Filth
211.San Francisco: 11/10/2011 — Protester Busted For Gun Violation Arrested Again
212.Mobile, AL: 11/9/2011 — 18 Occupy Protestors Arrested
213.New Orleans: 11/11/2011 — Death at Campsite Attributed To Alcohol Abuse