Saturday, September 29, 2012

Epic Fail

         In what year, exactly, does Barack Obama become responsible for all the things that got worse since Bush left office, things like lower median income, lower household income, greater national debt, higher unemployment, a greater percentage of people on food stamps, a greater share of persons in poverty, higher food prices, higher gas prices, the failure to pass even one budget in four years, an unguarded consulate in Libya on the anniversary of 9/11, and the Middle East in flames?  When?  
         It’s funny how the new Republican governors in several states, governors who have been in office far less time than Obama, were able to turn their states around, despite having to operate in the midst of a faltering national economy made worse by Obama’s policies from Washington.  QE1 and QE2 failed, and now QE3 is following in their train.  If insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, then his economic policies are insane. 
         I’ve heard him say many times that it’s not his fault because he inherited a mess.  If he gets re-elected, the mess he inherits from himself will be enormously greater than the one he got from Bush.  If he failed to fix the smaller mess, he'll fail to fix the larger one simply by re-applying the same tired Keynesian nonsense.    
         The bottom line:  He promised.  He promised, for example, to cut the national debt in half.  He failed.  Instead of cutting the national debt by 5 trillion dollars, he increased it by 6 trillion.  No other politician in the history of the world has ever miscalculated by 11 trillion dollars in four years.  If he failed because he knowingly made promises he couldn’t keep, then he’s a liar.  If he failed because he made promises he didn’t know he couldn’t keep, then he’s incompetent.  Either way, liar or incompetent, he doesn’t deserve re-election.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christocentric Spirituality: Jesus is not a Nose of Wax

        Do not be deceived.  While we must look to Christ as the model for our spirituality rather than imitating the world in reverse, it is not enough simply to look to Christ.  We must be sure that when we look at Him we actually see Him as He is.  Too often our Bible study degenerates into an exercise in narcissism.   Looking into the gospels becomes something like looking into a well:  all we see is our own mirrored image.  Jesus has become a nose of wax in our hands, and rather than conforming ourselves to his character, we conform Him to ours.  We seem to act as if, because God made us in his image, we can return the favor.
       Perhaps you have noticed how Christ is made to look like the one doing the preaching, the teaching, or the writing, at the moment.  In the hands of Thomas à Kempis, for example, Christ is reduced to little more, and little else, than a medieval monk -- as if Jesus really was a mystic, a monastic, and a nominalist.  But, of course, Jesus is not simply a glorified version of Francis of Assisi or Bernard of Clairvaux.  He's not a monk's monk.
       And He's not a Protestant.
       Not only do we make him a Protestant, but in our hands the Creator also has become an American evangelical dispensationalist from the Bible Belt, one who snatches his children from the clutches of an evil public school system because he is harassed and haunted by the bogey of secular humanism.  Naturally, non-fundamentalists are offended by such obscurantistic clap-trap.   Jesus doesn't look like that any more than He looks like the abbot of the monastery at Monte Cassino.  He's not the prototype of John Chrysostom, of Innocent III, or of Che Guevara.  That is, He's not Eastern Orthodox; He's not Roman Catholic; and He's no model for liberation theology.  And, distressing as it may be to some, He's not the Calvin before Calvin or the Arminius before Arminius.  He's the Son of God.  Regardless of how strenuously we might try to make Him one of us, we will be frustrated.  His unique combination of divinity and sinless humanity transcends easy categorization.  Trying to cram Jesus into our own ecclesiastical moulds is no simple task.  It is like stuffing ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag -- either the bag bursts or something gets left out.
       Nevertheless, people try.  Their attempts to make Jesus conform to their expectations (rather than shaping themselves to meet his) are a thinly veiled exercise in self-justification.  We all tend to read our own theological and ecclesiastical biases back into the Bible.  Rather than being confronted there by Something solid and resilient, Something other than ourselves, we assume the role of modern John the Baptists: we re-baptize Jesus into the modern Presbyterian, Coptic, Mormon, Baptist, or Russian Orthodox fold.  It simply won't do, of course.  The important thing in Christocentric spirituality is not what we can make of Him, but what He has made of Himself and intends to make of us.
       We must strenuously resist the temptation to rearrange the Savior.  Christ, even to Christians, seems a little too shocking.  We are forced (we think) to play the iconoclast and to knock down (or touch up) the image of the divine character He has left us.  But the true sanctity of Jesus is not often like the sanctity of those traditionally called saints.  He was holy, but He had no halo.  His purity was a blood-and-guts affair that held together, in the grip of his two strong hands, a holy God and a fallen world.  That union would not be broken, not even over his dead body.  In other words, his brow is no place for our tinsel crowns.  His head will not support the paper hats and paint-by-the-numbers halos of our misdirected and self-glorifying piety.  So much the worse for halos.  We need the real Jesus, not one of our own making.    What good is a potter shaped by clay?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unions and Minimum Wage Laws

         When detectives investigate crimes, they look for motivation.  "Who benefits?" they ask.
         When unions push minimum wage laws, I ask the same question. 
         Answer:  the unions themselves.
         They won't admit it, of course.  That’s not the way unions talk about minimum wage laws and their support for them.
         Since the 1930s, unions have been the chief proponents of minimum wage legislation because it helps eliminate low-wage competition for jobs.  It does so through federal coercion from laws passed by union-bought-and-paid-for legislators.  By driving up the competition's wages, unions erase the chief advantage their unskilled competitors have -- the willingness to work for a lower price than their union counterparts.  After all, virtually no union worker in America works for minimum wage.  This is not about driving up union wages, but driving up the wages of the union’s competition.
         This marketplace power play is meant to create a de facto labor cartel by expelling non-union workers from the field by artificially driving up their wages, in this case, the non-union workers with the least skill, folks whom employers might be willing to hire and to train if the price for doing so were not unnaturally high.  When the price of low-wage independents is not artificially elevated, employers often prefer to hire and train them instead of higher-priced and protected unionists.  As the price of independents rises, their attractiveness to prospective employers shrinks and the attractiveness of unionists grows, which is why unions are historically the strongest advocates of minimum wage laws.  By such laws, unions drive up the price of their competition, advancing what amounts to compulsory unionism.  
         In the wake of minimum wage laws, employment in low-wage industries generally drops, which predictably injures the poor, those very persons with the least marketplace skill and experience.  In other words, when you judge them by their actual negative impact, minimum wage laws are anti-black, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-elderly, and anti-young -- those who are the lowest workers on the pay scale.  They are the ones who lose the most when union-backed legislators enact a higher minimum wage.  That’s one more thing the unions won't tell you:  Unions injure the non-union poor.  Unions and their advocacy of minimum wage laws obstruct the working poor and make it more difficult for them to get the entry-level jobs by which they gain necessary marketplace skills like punctuality, team work, deference, appearance, public relations, accuracy, and dependability, skills that make getting the next job easier, skills that allow them to begin climbing the ladder of economic success -- outside of a union.
         Modern unions are the poor worker's worst enemy.  When unions push for a higher minimum wage, they're not looking out for the poor; they're looking out for themselves.
         An analogy will serve:  Imagine that, in an effort to aid portions of our lagging auto industry, we propped up the profits of our weakest carmaker (let us say, fictionally, Ford) with laws mandating a minimum price of $50,000 per vehicle sold.  That law would dramatically increase the profits Ford enjoyed from every sale.  But, despite that good intention, indeed because of it, Ford goes out of business because no matter how much we might want to “buy American,” very few folks can or will pay that much money for cars comparable to those available elsewhere at half the government-mandated price.  Ford dies.  Just like unions now do to their competitors, the people at competing automakers would love to pass laws requiring a minimum price for all Fords.  It won’t be good for Ford; it will be good for Ford’s competitors.
         By the same token, when that which is being sold is not a car but an unskilled worker’s work, a higher minimum wage helps that worker’s competition.  That’s why unions support this manipulative legislation, which makes it illegal for entry-level workers to sell their work at a lower price, no matter how badly they might need or want a job.   
         With minimum wages laws in force, the choice is often not a choice between the mandated wage and some other wage, but between the mandated wage and none at all.  Tragically, the latter option becomes increasingly attractive and commonplace.  A minimum wage helps only those with jobs; it cannot provide jobs or preserve jobs.  But it does hinder those without jobs from getting them, just as it hinders those with jobs from keeping them.
         If you have little or no skill and experience, but the government requires you to sell your services at inflated rates, you'll find no one willing to purchase them because, in order to pay for your services, your employer must raise his own selling price, which means his or her business is more likely to fail.  If it does, all the current employees, who are more skilled, more experienced, and more worth the money they earn, lose their jobs too because companies wise enough not to hire you at the government-mandated price can produce the same product your company does, but at a lower cost both to themselves and their customers.
         Here’s the bottom line:  Minimum wage laws create unemployment outside the union, which is precisely their intention.  When unions back minimum wage laws, it’s not about helping the poor; it’s about helping themselves.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chopping Down the Family Tree

          My family comes from Switzerland.  On one visit there, I was shown a family tree that traced my ancestors back to Melchior Baumann in 1536.  As my father’s cousin spread that enormous genealogical sheet out before me, it fell off all four sides of two adjoining tables.  Between Melchior and me were more than 20 generations.  Each generation across those nearly 500 years spread out wider and wider as child after child had more and more children.  Had his mother aborted Melchior, not one of them could ever have been born.  None of them could ever have seen even one moment of life.  One abortion would have deleted every subsequent life for half a millennium.  As the years and centuries pass, and as the generations grow, the number of persons denied life expands ceaselessly.
         If your mother aborts you, she does not abort just you.  She denies life to you and to your children.  If she aborts you, she denies life to you, to your children, to your children’s children, and to all their descendants, every one.  She denies life to generation after generation of your descendants across the ensuing decades, even the ensuing centuries.
         By aborting you, she denies life to an entire family tree, roots and branches.  Because she denied you life, not one of those persons will ever see life, not one.
         If you throw a rock in a pond, the ripple goes out in ever-expanding circles.  When you abort a child, when you deny him or her life, the circle of human deletion goes on and on, for generation upon generation, for years uncountable.
         Now multiply that by 50 million, which is the number of abortions we’ve had in American alone since Roe v. Wade, and you’ll just begin to understand the legacy of death, deprivation, and human deletion that America’s deadbeat mothers have scrawled across the pages of subsequent history from now until the end of time.
         If your mother aborts you, she does not abort just you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Abortion: It's Not Just a Woman's Issue

         "Yet there is one thing that seems to link together all men who face the long-term effects of abortion: a horrific sense of loss.  Deep within the soul of every man who's been involved in abortion, a truth repeats itself:  the life of my child, the fruit of my own body, has been lost.  And that is not the only thing.  In the aftershock of this terrible event, a man soon comes to realize:  The life I could have had -- the husband, the father, the man I could have been -- is lost."

Guy Condon and David Hazard, Fatherhood Aborted  (p. 9)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Abortion: By Any Other Name. . .

         Language is a weapon.
         In the hands of a skilled wordsmith, it can sensitize peoples' consciences to injustice and motivate them to heroic virtue and reform.  A propagandist, by contrast, can apply it as the verbal veneer needed to camouflage some wildly horrific crime under apparent respectability.  When the Nazis, for example, resorted to genocidal barbarism in their quest for an allegedly purer race and nation, they called on their word warriors to help them cloak their wickedness in terms of decency in order to make the unspeakable speakable.  Dachau and Buchenwald were painted with the brush of inoffensive clinical jargon.  "We have implemented," the Nazis said, "the final solution."
          Their word ploy was largely and regrettably effective.  Rather than stating the facts plainly and forcing the German people to face the unimaginable horror around them and to risk life and family to eradicate it, the Nazi subterfuge provided a respectable verbal veil behind which to hide their grotesque villainy.  Who, after all, can be opposed to a "purer" nation or to a "solution"?
         I can.
         Whereas great evils are often disguised by clinical language, accurate words call the ghosts out of the closet.  That is why we must learn to call things by their real names.  That is why we must beware of every euphemism.
         But, even now, all these decades after Hitler, we fail to speak plainly.
         We hide the fetal holocaust that surrounds us every day just as effectively as the Nazis hid their extermination of the Jews.  And we do it the same way.  We cannot bring ourselves to utter the "M" word, though we commit the "M" act.  That is, we do not murder unborn children; we "abort fetuses."  That terminology, we wrongly believe, helps to remove our heinous deeds from the realm of the morally reprehensible.  It allows us to view ourselves and our neighbors with more self-respect and more ethical complacency.  After all, that nice young woman next door would never pay her doctor a handsome sum to murder her unborn baby.  That is unthinkable.  She merely aborted her fetus because she is unmarried and did not want to sentence her inconvenient offspring to a life of unwantedness or poverty.  Never mind that she is an adultress.  Never mind that she sentenced her child to the garbage can.  Described in her less graphic and less accurate terms, to murder her child seems not only not evil, it seems downright virtuous.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         Some of the more squeamish among us are unable even to say the "A" word.  Though by aborting fetuses rather than murdering babies our linguistic sleight of hand has hidden the real nature (murder) of our action and the real identity (baby) of our victim, some people require a still heavier dose of verbal opium.  For them we need to make the accursed deed even more palatable by making it even more impersonal.  We must tell them they are merely "terminating a pregnancy," which eliminates overt reference to any living thing.  Unlike fetuses and children, which are undeniably alive, and unlike abortion and murder, which seem to imply nasty things like blood and death, simply to terminate a pregnancy sounds as innocuous as ending a radio transmission or pulling into the station after a pleasant railroad journey.
        If terminating pregnancies is still too overt a verbal description because the word "pregnant" tends to evoke unfortunate images of happy women large with child, we can hide the crime behind an even more impersonal wall of words.  We can say that the murdering of unborn children is nothing more than the voluntary extraction of the "product of conception."  If that does not work, then we can talk the way nearly all abortion clinics talk:  we can resort to an acrostic and say that we are merely "removing the P.O.C."  What could be more innocent?
         Nearly everything.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         Pleasant words can be a fraud.  A sterile idiom can be a defense mechanism behind which we conceal the grossest reality.  But, defense mechanisms do not change that reality.  They merely disguise it.  The evil facts themselves remain the same.  Never forget that the disease you hide you cannot heal.  For jargon wizards like us, therefore, there remains no therapy.  Rather than facing the facts and owning this great wickedness for what it is, rather than calling an unconditional halt to the war we wage on our unborn young, rather than confessing our guilt and casting ourselves on the immense mercy of God, we mask our shame behind a veil of words and sell our souls to the verbal charlatans and quacks who tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.  We hide the crime with a lie.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         A murder by any other name...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz," by the Student

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch.
To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.
"When do you wish to begin?" he asked.
"Now," I replied.
This seemed to please him, and with an energetic "Very well," he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.
"Take this fish," he said, "and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen."
With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me.
"No man is fit to be a naturalist," said he, "who does not know how to take care of specimens."
I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks, half-eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust.
Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish was infectious; and though this alcohol had "a very ancient and fish-like smell," I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume that haunted me like a shadow.
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face -- ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view -- just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.
On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I was not permitted to use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were prohibited. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed so limited. I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me -- I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.
"That is good," said he, "a pencil is one of the best eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked."
With these encouraging words he added --
"Well, what is it like?"
He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:
"You have not looked very carefully. "Why, you haven't even seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!" And he left me to my misery.
I was piqued; I was embarrassed; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor's criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor asked, "Do you see it yet?"
"No," I replied. "I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before."
"That is next best," said he earnestly, "but I won't hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer first thing tomorrow morning. I will test you again before you look at the fish."
This was disconcerting and upsetting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying it in my head without it in front of me, trying to figure out just what this unknown but most obvious and visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I had to give an exact account of them the next day.  So I walked home by the Charles River in a distracted state, with my perplexities. 
The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I was that I should see for myself what he saw.
"Do you perhaps mean, Professor Agassiz" I asked, "that this fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?"
His thoroughly pleased, "Of course, of course!" repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After that he talked happily and enthusiastically -- as he always did -- about the importance of this point.
I asked him what I should do next.
"Oh," he said, "look at your fish!"   Then he left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
"That is good, that is good!" he repeated, "but that is not all; go on." And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. "Look, look, look," was his repeated injunction.
This was the best entomological lesson I ever had -- a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy that Professor Agassiz has left to me, as he left it to many others, of tremendous value, which we could not buy, and with which we cannot part.
About a year later, some of us were amusing ourselves by drawing outlandish imaginary beasts upon the blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydra-headed worms; stately craw-fishes standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes with gaping mouths and staring eyes. Professor Agassiz came in shortly after, and was as much amused as we were at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.
"Haemulons, every one of them," he said; "Mr. Scudder drew them."
True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.
The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!
The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz's training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.
"Facts are stupid things," he would say, "until brought into connection with some general law."
At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Not Writing About C.S. Lewis

My college apologetics teacher, Gordon Saunders, once told us that he intended to write an article about not writing about C. S. Lewis.  But being true to his principles, and being committed to coherence and consistency, he declined to write it.
         I will do it for him.
         The first and best reason not to write about C. S. Lewis is because he is almost always more clear and more insightful than his would-be expositors.  Lewis is a model of clarity and concision.  He is both more perspicuous and more brief than those who mediate his thought.  When you compare their work to his, the effect is like trying to illuminate the sun with a flashlight.  We see his interpreters better by his light than we see him by theirs.  No doubt they have seen this phenomenon at work in others.  How they think they themselves managed to avoid that fate is never articulated.
         The second reason why we generally ought not write about Lewis is that the scope of his wisdom and of his corpus is too wide for most scholars to master and to therefore to tie together.  To mediate Lewis’s expansive contribution requires of us something like what it required of Lewis: impressive skill in (1) Medieval and Renaissance language and literature, in both its Continental and its British embodiments; (2) the history of western philosophy from the ancient Greeks onward; (3) the history of western theology from the ancient Jews onward; (4) the history of science fiction; (5) the history of literary criticism from the ancient Greeks onward; (6) the history of the novel, both Continental and British; (7) Norse (and Icelandic) language and literature; and (8) the history of western spirituality.  The list is shockingly partial.  Lewis also was a practicing novelist, a poet, a critic, and a professor.  His explainers, on the whole, are not.  When they try to tie his though together for readers even more narrowly adept than they are, his interpreters are out of their depth in so many fields all at once
         I know of only a few notable exceptions.  Here I name both Donald T. Williams and Michael Ward.  Williams can write fine books and articles about Lewis and Co. simply because he lives in the world they used to inhabit.  He too is a dinosaur of sorts, a survivor from another age, born out of time.  He too is a poet, a philosopher, a storyteller, a critic, a theologian, a teacher and, above all, a reader.  Ward succeeds because he is not simply a synthesizer but has a point to argue.  He has a thesis to prove, and he proves it.  He writes more than mere summary or comment.  He makes an argument, a case.  He drives you back to Lewis himself in order to find out if Ward is correct. (He is.)  Most of Lewis’ modern interpreters drive you away from Lewis; they hinder encounters between you and him, although nothing is normally further from their intention.
         And then of course, there is Walter Hooper – indefatigable, insightful, and generous, a living encyclopedia of Lewisiana.  If Hooper had done nothing else his entire professional life but edit the three enormous volumes of Lewis’ letters, his contribution would tower.  If you have a question about Lewis, any question, go first to Hooper to see if he has written on it.
         But for the special few exceptions, I think Gordon Saunders was quite right.  In most cases, if you can avoid writing about Lewis, you should.
         I now think the same holds true for writing about John Milton and Ronald Reagan.    

Friday, September 14, 2012

Arab Spring, Arab Fall, and the Train of War

         The seeds Barack Obama planted with American apologies, American money, and American military assistance in the Arab Spring are being harvested now as we enter the Arab Fall.
         That harvest is, as anyone not a fool would have predicted, a harvest of anti-American hatred, violence, murder, animosity, and fanaticism that spans the Arab world.  That harvest is not yet fully in the barn, and it won’t be until the threat of a nuclear Iran as been eliminated and the future of Israel secured.  Toward that end, the president has not stopped Iran at all.  Indeed, he has hardly even slowed it down.  He talks, indeed he talks frequently, but his talk has stopped nothing, unless one perhaps asserts that his talk show appearances have stopped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from visiting Obama, though it did not stop the representatives of the Muslin Brotherhood in Egypt from doing so.
         Barack Obama has forgotten, if ever he knew, that no nation has ever been attacked for being too strong.  But plenty of nations have been attacked for being weak, whether that weakness was real or merely perceived.  His apologies make us look weak.  His actions make us weak in fact.  In the Arab world, that is a gold-embossed invitation to conflict.
         We are weak because he has not issued credible pronouncements to host nations in the Arab world that our embassies will be protected from violence one of two ways:  Either the host nation will provide that iron-clad protection or else we will do it ourselves with our own soldiers, our own equipment, in our own way, under own our command, and in our own timing.  Because those host nations have failed abjectly to provide for our diplomats what every other civilized country has provided as a matter of course, whether those nations are friend or foe, Barack Obama must tell the now-negligent Arab countries that the second option is the only option left.  He must tell them that we will protect ourselves to whatever degree we, not they, think is necessary, and do so in ways we, not they, think are suitable.  He must say this not as bluster but as settled policy.
         When Obama takes this burden of self-protection upon us, he must never forget that even preparing for a worst-case scenario might not be enough because in the Arab world simply to prepare for the worst case is sometimes too optimistic.  Either that or close down our embassies there and their embassies here.  If our Arab counterparts wish for the diplomatic option to remain open, then they must provide a safe arena in which it can take place, just as we do.
         Judging from his own actions and his own words, both before he became president and after, Barack Obama is either incapable of, or unwilling to, produce the resolve needed to deal effectively with nations dominated by the religion of his father, of his step-father, and of his own early education.  He is shockingly unprepared for Islamic violence.  As a result, he leaves his own diplomats ridiculously under-protected.  Marines without bullets is not adequate protection for melting ice cream, much less for an embassy or a consulate, and certainly not in Arab nations, not now.
         By saying “not now,” I am not saying that this threat and this violence are new or that they are the result of an obscure, low budget, amateurish, and highly deplorable film against Islam.  Perhaps I might think so if this violence hadn’t been going on for 1,500 years and occurred simultaneously in multiple countries on the anniversary of 9/11.
         Right now, Barack Obama must do two things:
         First, and most importantly, he must, as Netanyahu insists, draw a line in the sand for Iran.  That line should demand that Iran cease its nuclear weapons procurement efforts and that it open its nuclear program to full and unfettered outside inspection.  He also must place a deadline on that compliance, a deadline very, very close at hand.  He should state unequivocally what the consequences of noncompliance will be, and make those consequences staggeringly harsh so that no other course but compliance is remotely feasible.  If he does not, Iran will not comply and very likely a regional nuclear war will ensue (assuming any nuclear war can actually remain regional).  Iran must see not even the slightest crack of daylight between us and our Israeli allies.  To see a even a small such crack is to invite Iran to think it can divide and conquer. 
         Second, and more easily, because the photos surrounding the murder of Ambassador Stevens and his three colleagues are numerous, clear, and widely available, Obama must demand that the Libyan government assist us in identifying, tracking down, and bringing to justice the killers and their cohorts.  We cannot trust the Libyans themselves to do it any more than we could trust them to keep the American compound and its occupants safe in the first place.
         Barack Obama must remember that inaction is action. He must not permit it of himself or his Arab counterparts.  We already are sliding toward war in the Middle East.
         The war train is coming.  The engineer’s chair is empty.  Obama needs to fill it and bring that train to an immediate halt. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jesus is not a Liberal: Correcting the Christian Left

          I have taken Becky Riley’s article below from The Christian Left’s website (  I chose this article not because it is particularly good or particularly bad.  I chose it simply because it was the first to appear when I opened their site.  Had some other essay appeared, I would have chosen to refute it instead.  Her words are in boldface type and in quotation marks.  Mine are not.

“Biblical Quotes Supporting the Belief that Jesus Is A Liberal” -- By Becky Riley”
         Riley does not tell us what she means by the word “liberal,” but if she is a conventional leftist, it means she thinks that Jesus was a big-government, collectivist, egalitarian, redistributionist, pacifist, or something very close, which is exactly what emerges from her text subsequently.

“Peacemaking, not War Making: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. [Matthew 5:9] Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right... cheek, turn to him the other also. [Matthew 5:39] I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite-fully use you, and persecute you; [Matthew 5:44]”
         Although the Biblical text Riley quotes does not mention anything about war making, she herself includes it.  By including it on her own authority, she has transgressed the important difference between peacemaking and pacifism.  One can make peace without being a pacifist.  Thus, Jesus commends the peacemakers here, not the pacifists.  He commends those who proceed to peace, not those who proceed by peace.  By reading as she does, Riley overlooks several important points:
         (1) Peacemaking can be accomplished in many ways, one of them by ending war quickly.  If you want to make peace, then you must learn how to end war quickly.  In that sense, we have three peace academies in the US:  West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs, where they produce military folks who are the best the world has ever seen at ending war swiftly and thereby making peace.  But, conversely, if you proceed by means of pacifism toward peace, you will not end war quickly. Rather, you will invite more war because tyrants will move upon you with all speed and purpose.  From you they fear nothing.  No nation was ever attacked because it was too strong and could defend itself and its neighbors.  But many nations, whether weak or pacifistic, have been attacked because they were unwilling or unprepared to deal strongly and swiftly with tyrannical opponents.  Military weakness invites war.  Pacifism invites war.  If you cannot fight, or if you will not fight, you eventually will have peace, but it will be the peace of surrender, of slavery, and of death, which is not the peace of justice, which alone is the peace of God.  Pacifists need to consider not only the qualities of a just war, but of a just peace.  Not all peace is just, not remotely.
         (2) Jesus Himself is not a pacifist, and neither is His Father.  Jesus, we recall, is the One in charge of Armageddon, and Armageddon is no peace march -- far from it.  Armageddon is so enormous a battle that it brings the entire world to heel.  War of this sort wasn’t something Jesus Himself cooked up.  He got it from His Father.  Jesus said that He did what He saw His Father do and He said what He heard His Father say.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, He saw his Father tell the Israelites to go into battle frequently.  He heard his Father command total war of His people and punish them if they did not do it.  Jesus saw, in short, what is obvious to any careful student of Scripture:  Yahweh is a warrior.
         (3) Peace is by no means the bottom line for Jesus.  That is not why He came.  Nor is it the means by which He proceeds:  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10: 34), He said.
         (4) The context of the verse Riley quotes is the Sermon on the Mount.  That sermon was directed to the disciples of Jesus (Matt. 5: 2), not to congresses, politburos, or parliaments.  It deals with personal Christian ethics, not with national defense policy.  What is required of government by God and what is required of Christians by God are not the same.   While it might be required of Christians to turn the other cheek, governments cannot and must not work that way.  If someone hits you, you might do well not to retaliate, and to practice self-sacrifice instead.  But the government must not and cannot do that.  If your enemy flies jetliners into your skyscrapers in New York, you must not say to them that we have skyscrapers in Chicago too, and that they are free to attack them as well and to do so without fear of retaliation because we are turning the other cheek.  That’s because while individuals can practice self-sacrifice, governments cannot.  What is being sacrificed when governments turn the other cheek is not themselves but others, perhaps many thousands of others.  You cannot self-sacrifice others.  Jesus’ teaching here is not about national defense, but about his disciples’ personal lives and personal obligations.
         As before, the command not to resist evil and to love your enemies is directed not at governments but at Christian disciples.  Governments cannot love, nor are they directed here to do so.  But Christians are.  They are the ones whom Jesus addresses in this famous sermon.  Further, governments exist precisely in order to resist and restrain evil (Romans 13: 3).  Unless Riley wants to pit Jesus against both His Father and His apostles, her reading of these verses is sadly inadequate and distortively imprecise.  This is a matter of individual self-sacrifice, not public policy.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.          
“The Death Penalty: Thou shalt not kill [Matthew 5:21]”
         Matthew 5:21 does not say “Thou shalt not kill,” but “Thou shalt not murder.”  While all murder is killing, not all killing is murder.  Murder is unjustified killing.  Some killing is justified.  Some is not.  For Jesus to command what Riley asserts that He commands is again to pit the Son against the Father, which the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, as well as the example and explicit teachings of Christ Himself, prohibit.  The Son and the Father are not divided on the point.  God the Father permits capital punishment and has done so almost from the very beginning (Gen. 9:6), something He reiterated multiple times in the Mosaic law.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.

“Crime and Punishment: If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. [John 8:7] Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. [Matthew 7:1 & 2.]”
         Setting aside the textual challenges one might raise to the verse Riley quotes from John, one must challenge her designation of this passage as pertaining to “crime and punishment” rather than to “sin and punishment.”  Not all sins are crimes; nor should they be.  For better or worse, adultery is not a crime now the way it was in Jesus’ day.  If it is not a crime, and Riley thinks it should be, then the punishment prescribed by the law for this crime must hold too, which means death, and which means her comment earlier on killing is out of court.  If she wants the law’s prohibitions against adultery, but not its punishments, then she is unjustifiably arbitrary.  She is picking just half of the package deal and tossing the rest blithely away.  If she wishes adultery not to be a crime, then her designation of it as a crime is false.
         So also is her application of this passage to the allegedly necessary sinlessness of critics and judges.  Paul, you’ll recall, called himself “the chief of sinners”(1 Tim. 1:15).  Yet, despite his self-confessed colossal evil, he often rebuked those who sinned, both Christians and non-Christians.  In so doing, Paul was not transgressing the teachings of Jesus, which, in this case, were directed by Jesus at certain very specific accusers, those who brought this woman to Him.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that every statement of Jesus is meant to be applied literally or to all times and all places.  Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not.  Sometimes Jesus is painfully specific; sometimes He is just as painfully universal.  One way to tell which is which is to see how the apostles themselves understood Christ and applied His teaching.  If your view makes the apostles wrong -- and Riley’s does just that with every apostle because every apostle was a sinner and every apostle was a rebuker as well -- then you have misunderstood Christ’s intention.  You and I are not Christ-chosen and Christ-trained apostles.  They were.  If your view makes them out to be wrong, then likely you are wrong yourself instead.
         The judging here condemned is not to be confused with discernment, with assessing the spiritual condition of someone so that you might better deal with them in a prudent, honest, and more effective manner.  You deal with others best by assessing as carefully as possible whether or not they are converts and whether or not they are converts in rebellion to God and to the fellowship of believers.  If they are unconverted, you must deal with them in one way:  “This is a non-Christian person.  I must share with them the gospel of Christ.”  If they are converts, you deal with them in another way: “This is a fellow believer, but one who has rebelled against God and has injured the church.  I will not evangelize this person; I will counsel repentance, including repair of life and fellowship.”   To discern these different conditions and to deal with others on that basis is not to judge and is not here precluded.  For example, to advise a Christian against homosexual activity is not to judge, but to discern and to counsel wisely.  To judge is to pass final and ultimate judgment upon them, to condemn them to Hell.  Condemning them to Hell, not discerning their actual spiritual condition, is what is here prohibited.
         Even if “to judge” meant here what Riley wrongly thinks it does, then she would need to spend a great deal of time correcting her liberal colleagues, who are quick to “judge” their conservative counterparts as greedy, selfish, racist, and homophobic.  But then again she could not do so, because to do so would be to “judge.”  
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal. 

“Justice: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. [Matthew 5:6] Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy [Matthew 5:7] But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Matthew 6:15]”
         Again, Riley mis-designates the verses she quotes.  To seek after righteousness and to find it is not a matter of justice (whether of the individual or the political variety), as she says it is.  It is a matter of mercy and grace.  To be merciful is to be what Jesus requires of His disciples.  Mercy invites mercy.  This text has nothing to do with individual justice, or with government, or with how governments ought to punish crime.  It is not really about justice at all, even though Riley so designates it.  It is about mercy, though not government mercy.
         Indeed, one must fear the government that does not punish evil, but that merely exercises “mercy.”  Mercy is not the divinely designated function of government, as Paul indicates in Romans 13:1ff.   This text has nothing at all to do with being a liberal, unless liberalism means that the state must be merciful to criminals rather than to be just.  As a nation, we have, and ought to have, a system of justice, not mercy.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.

“Corporate Greed and the Religion of Wealth: In the temple courts [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and other sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. [John 2:14 & 15.] Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. [Luke 12.15.] Truly, I say unto you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 19:23] You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:24.]”
         Riley unjustifiably identifies what Jesus opposed here as “corporate greed,” which is both grossly false and naively anachronistic.  Her designation says more about her than about what is happening in this text.  Jesus is not fighting “corporate greed,” here, or even fighting greed at all.  He is fighting against profaning the Temple because He has within Him a burning love for God’s house (John 2:17).  Greed, much less “corporate greed,” is not in view.
         Further, Riley seems not to notice the way in which this passage militates against her notion of peacemaking mentioned above.  In response to the profanation of the Temple (and not to “corporate greed”), Jesus sat down and deliberately wound together a whip with His own hands. With this whip He violently cleared out the Temple, clearing it both of men and of beasts.  In so doing, He was not making peace, and certainly not in the Riley style.  Nor was He being merciful, which Riley also lionizes above; nor did He decide not to resist evil.  He resisted it vigorously.  If Riley reads these texts correctly, Jesus breaks his own rules because He does not do with them what Riley thinks ought to be done.  Either that or Riley misreads them.  Unless Riley thinks that Jesus does not practice what He preaches, then she needs to rethink from the bottom up what she says about Jesus’ words and the way she interprets them.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.
“Paying Taxes & Separation of Church & State: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. [Matthew 22:21]”
         First, the separation of church and state is not in view when Jesus says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.  Please recall that neither the ancient Romans nor the ancient Jews believed any such thing.  To the Romans, Caesar was a god, and he required religious sacrifices from his subjects precisely because he was a god.  To the ancient Romans, there was nothing like the modern American notion of the separation of church and state to which Riley alludes.  The same holds for the ancient Jews, including Jesus.  To the ancient Jews, Israel was a theocracy, one over which Yahweh was to be king and in which His laws were to reign supreme.  To the Jews, the notion of the separation of church and state was unthinkable, just as it was to Jesus, a Jew.  For Riley to classify this text as “the separation of church and state” is simply to do great violence to the text itself and to impose upon it alien categories and meanings.
         Second, in light of the fact that the entire earth and all that is in it belongs to God, Riley needs to think more carefully about what Jesus means when He says to give to Caesar, a fake god, and to God what rightly belongs to each.  If she asks herself what is God’s, and answers it correctly, and then if she asks herself what is left, and answers it correctly, then she will know better what is Caesar’s, what is not, and what Jesus means.  Even Rome’s political power itself, and the putting to death of its citizens and inhabitants, including Jesus, belongs to God, not ultimately to Caesar (John 19:11).
         Third, paying taxes is not evil.  No sensible citizen thinks it is or that it God prohibits it.  But paying unjust taxes, or paying taxes for unjust purposes, such as slaughtering the young by abortion, is evil, and enormously so.  When she endorses paying taxes here, the folks Riley seems to have in mind, the rich conservatives, pay far more taxes than anyone else in the nation.  Nearly half of Americans pay no income tax at all.  If paying taxes is required by this text -- and the way she reads the command to give to Caesar what is his seems to demand it -- then Riley needs to address the non-paying 50% who pay no income tax at all, not the ones who do all the paying, the ones she seems to have in mind.  And by what twisted logic are we to assume that our money, the money we for which we ourselves sacrificed and labored, belongs to Caesar?  If I am to give him what is actually his, then how does he have claim over my earnings and my income, as if it were his?  Caesar didn’t make it.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.

“Community: Love your neighbor as yourself. .[Matthew 22:39] So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.[Matthew 7:12.] If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. [Matthew 19:21]”
         Riley seems to think that conservatives do not love, and do not do to others what they want done to them, as if liberals were practicing this and conservatives were not.  On this point, Riley is flatly wrong.  Conservatives are better at it than all others, period.  (Please read that sentence again, and keep reading it again until it sinks in.)  If Riley thinks that conservatives are not merciful or generous, then she simply isn’t paying attention.  I can do no more to enlighten her on this point than to recommend that she read Brooks and Wilson’s book, Who Really Cares, which demonstrates decisively that the religious and the conservatives in America -- not the liberals -- give the most both to the poor and to secular charities, not just religious ones.  In fact, they are the most generous such group in the history of the world, yet Riley feels compelled to lecture them, not her stingy liberal cohorts, on this point.
         When Jesus tells the rich young man in Matt. 19: 21 to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, Jesus is giving specific directions to one man, based upon that man’s personal spiritual defects and deficiencies, identifying for that man what he ought to do.  Jesus is not addressing Himself to every person everywhere and at all times.  Nothing is wrong with being wealthy.  Abraham was very wealthy.  David the king was very wealthy, as was his son Solomon.  Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy.  The problem is not having wealth but in wealth having you.  Jesus was pointing out this man’s great moral failing, which was not this wealth but his self-righteousness and selfishness.  He actually told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments (v. 20), which was an impossibility and a lie of self-delusion.  In order to point out the young man’s self-righteous failings, failings he did not recognize in himself, Jesus told him to give up his wealth.   But that commandment was too hard for the young man.  He couldn’t do it.  So he went away sad (v. 22).  From this incident the disciples drew the wrong conclusion.  They wondered:  If the wealthy, with all their resources, can’t succeed, then who can (v. 25)?  Jesus corrects them:  What that rich young man could not do, God could.  God could give him what he and his alleged law keeping and his wealth never could.  God could heal his shortcomings.  Grace makes it possible (v. 26), not human effort or human possession.  The point Jesus makes here about this incident is not about wealth but about God’s grace, a lesson He makes explicit to the disciples, but which liberals like Riley overlook.
         Put differently, Jesus is not a fool.  He does not think that the best way to help the poor is to become poor yourself.  That’s not what He is advising.  To do so would be to place an even greater demand on others, who have more than enough poor to care for already.  To create more poor is not how you help the poor.  Indeed, to Jesus, the poverty issue has no solution, not in this life:  “The poor you will always have with you,” He says (Matt. 26:11).  By saying so, He was not suggesting that more wealthy people become poor.
         Furthermore, Jesus does not command us to help the poor by means of government-sponsored redistributionism -- not once, not ever.  He talks about the good Samaritan in this regard, not the good bureaucrat or the good government giveaway.  These obligations to the poor are your own, and you must not pawn them off onto government, as if government were a suitable agency of Christian love, or as if the obligations of Christian love could be hired out to political or bureaucratic surrogates.  No; you must do it.  You must get out into the trenches of poverty and assist real persons in real ways, and not assign this obligation over to government, as if your tax return were your tithe.

         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.      

“Equality & Social Programs: But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. [Luke 14:13 &14.]”
         As she has done so frequently, Riley mislabels the texts she quotes.  Nothing here is about “equality and social programs.”  That is not what Jesus mentions; that is not what He has in mind, even if Riley does.  Inviting others to your feast is not a matter of “equality” or of “social programs,” but of charity and generosity.  Equality is not mentioned or alluded to anywhere in the text.  Neither are social programs.  We are exhorted here to aid others because they are needy, not because they and we are equal.  Riley herself smuggled in the notion of equality.  Jesus doesn’t mention it at all.  The same goes for social programs, which are utterly absent from the text.
         As for equality and income redistribution, one wonders what Riley would make of Jesus’ instruction to take from the poor and give to the rich (Matt. 25: 28).
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.
“Public Prayer & Displays of Faith: And when thou pray, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret… [Matthew 6:6 & 7]”
         Riley seems to think that here Jesus is prohibiting religion and religious practice in public.  He is not.  He is prohibiting the sort of self-aggrandizing showboating to which the Pharisees and others were prone.  If Jesus were doing what Riley seems to think, then He would fall far short of His own teaching, and so would His disciples.  He Himself prayed and preached in public multiple times, even at His crucifixion, where He uttered multiple public prayers.  The disciples prayed and preached in public many times as well, beginning at Pentecost.  Indeed, the entire Jewish tradition to which Jesus and His disciples adhered required praying and other religious practices in public year round.
         Jesus is not renouncing public displays of faith and religion.  He is saying that if you do these things to get recognition from people, you have no reward left to you.  For such persons, it is far better to go off in secret, where no one but God sees.  Someone like Jesus, Who came to fulfill the law, and not to ignore it, or gainsay it, or set it aside, Someone Who belonged to a religion of public prayers and public displays, was not denouncing His own religion or His Father, Who gave these commands to be followed publicly.  He is denouncing the self-centered display that brings glory to you as pious and not glory to God as merciful and powerful.
         Nor is Jesus saying that governments ought to be secular and that government ought not to declare public days of prayer, of remembrance, or of thanksgiving.  Much less is He banning the public mention or invocation of God, for which so many modern liberals seem to yearn.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal. 

“Strict Enforcement of Religious Laws: If any of you has a son or a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? [Matthew 12:11] The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. [Mark 2:27.]”
         Jesus here is not forbidding, or even criticizing, Sabbath observance.  He observed it all His life.  Rather, He is restoring the Sabbath to its proper use, which is for human benefit.  The main benefit involved in the Sabbath is rest.  The Sabbath is the day of rest, and is based upon God’s own practice in Genesis after creation was complete.  Human rest and recuperation, which is the purpose of the Sabbath for us, are very important.  Our laws ought to provide for them.  But, sometimes situations emerge or needs arise that are more important than rest, things like the well being of one’s family or property, which Jesus specifically mentions.  In such instances, the Sabbath rest can be suspended.  But that suspension is the exception, not the rule.  For liberals to take this passage to mean that Jesus opposes public Sabbath laws is simply and fully false.
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.
“Individuality & Personal Spiritual Experience: Ye are the light of the world. [Matthew 5:14]”
         That we are the light of world is true.  But it is not a liberal statement.  It means that we have an obligation to let our light shine, something liberals, like Riley above, seem to oppose because they think that we ought not to do such things in public, as if Jesus commanded us to put our light under a bushel and not out in the open (Matt. 5: 15).
         By letting our light shine, we are working to “bring every thought captive to Christ,” as Paul admonished us (2 Cor. 10: 5).  We do so because Christ is Lord.  Indeed, He is Lord of all things, not just some.  If Christ is Lord of all things, then nothing -- nothing -- is properly secular.  If nothing is properly secular, then anything pursued in a secular fashion is at least partly, if not wholly, mispursued.  Yet, liberals like Riley want to make government secular, including public schools and even the Pledge of Allegiance.  Christ is Lord of all things. He is Lord of the marketplace, the academy, the laboratory, the arena, and the public square.  It is in those places, places that are properly His, even if the world and the liberals do not know it, that we are to be the light of the world.  They need light in a dark place, and those places all are now deeply lost in darkness.  We Christian conservatives intend to let the light shine because we know that government without God is your worst nightmare, not your dream come true.  It seems not to strike Riley as odd, foolish, or undesirable that convicts can read the Bible in prison but that students cannot read the Bible in school.  If students were permitted to do so, we might have fewer convicts. 
         Nothing Jesus says here makes Him a liberal.

 “Follow the Truth.....wherever it leads you!?”