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June 04th, 2010 | Author:

What if:

  • Abraham Lincoln, like James Buchanan before him, said of the South, “As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing among them.”
  • Lincoln decided that “preserving the Union” was not worth the cost in blood.
  • Congress legitimized secession and officially recognized the Confederacy.
  • The Confederate States of America still existed today.

United States map of 1861

I know.  This is an odd subject, even for me, but you can blame it on Rand Paul.  Or rather, you can blame it on an article by Sheldon Richman that was stirred by Rand Paul’s comments on the Civil Rights Act:

Why assume that legislation was the only way to stop segregation and today is the only thing preventing resegregation? We can easily imagine scenarios in which private nonviolent action could pressure bigots into changing their racial policies.

But we don’t need to imagine it. We can consult history. Lunch counters throughout the South were integrating years – years! – before the civil rights bill was passed. It happened not out of the goodness of the racists’ hearts – they had to be dragged, metaphorically, kicking and screaming. It was the result of an effective nongovernment social movement.

Starting in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, lunch counters throughout the South began to be desegregated through direct but peaceful confrontation – sit-ins – staged by courageous students and others who refused to accept humiliating second-class citizenship. Four years before the Civil Rights Act passed, lunch counters in downtown Nashville were integrated within four months of the launch of the Nashville Student Movement’s sit-in campaign.

Students were beaten and jailed, but they won the day, Gandhi-style, by shaming the bigots with their simple request to be served like anyone else. The sit-ins then sparked sympathy boycotts of department stores nationwide. The campaign wasn’t easy, but people seized control of their own lives, shook their communities, and sent shockwaves through the country. State and city governments were far slower to respond.

Could not slavery have been abolished using the same methods?  Britain accomplished this without war, largely influenced by a boycott of  sugar.

An anti-sugar pamphlet by William Fox was published in 1791; it ran to 25 editions and sold 70,000 copies in four months. Spurred on by pamphlets and posters, by 1792, about 400,000 people in Britain were boycotting slave-grown sugar. Some people managed without, others used sugar from the East Indies, where it was produced by free labour.

Grocers reported sugar sales dropping by over a third, in several parts of the country, over just a few months. During a two-year period, the sale of sugar from India increased ten-fold (see Adam Hochschild: Bury the chains). James Wright, a Quaker and merchant of Haverhill, Suffolk, advertised in the General Evening Post on March 6th, 1792, to his customers that he would no longer be selling sugar.  He declared:

“…..Being Impressed with a sense of the unparalleled suffering of our fellow creatures, the African slaves in the West India Islands…..with an apprehension, that while I am dealer in that article, which appears to be principal support of the slave trade, I am encouraging slavery, I take this method of  informing my customer that I mean to discontinue selling the article of sugar when I have disposed of the stock  I have on hand, till I can procure it  through channels less contaminated, more unconnected with slavery, less polluted with human blood……”

(A full copy of this article can be read here)

Citizen actions like these could well have pressured the south to ultimately ban slavery at the state level without killing about 618,000 Americans in war.  Compare that to American casualties in WWI (53, 402), WWII (291,557), and Vietnam (47, 424), and then imagine the impact it had on the citizenry.  Look at the economic disruption as well, and it seems that other less-costly solutions to slavery could have been found.

And if they had, and two American governments existed?  We can’t know the outcome, of course, but it seems to me there would be some important advantages.

First, states rights would have been upheld, limiting the role of the federal governments.

Second, dividing the country in two would, by simple mathematics, have reduced the power of those governments.

Third, two governments would have provided some healthy competition, as people decided where they wanted to live.

Fourth, all those confederate rebels could openly fly their flags.  :)

I know this “what if?” is a little off the beaten path, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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May 19th, 2010 | Author:

When I touched on America as a “Christian Nation” in my last Word for Wednesday, Rebecca from Freaky Frugalite left a comment that made me realize that much of the controversy surrounding this issue results from fuzzy terminology.  This post is an attempt to rectify that problem.  [I also want to acknowledge that a pithy comment left by Dave from Brainbiter resulted in the title of this post.]

In my attempt to do away with the fuzzies, I’ll start with some definitions in bold taken from the 1828 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary.  My personal definitions are more  narrow (and blunt), so I’ve included my thoughts on each.

CHRISTIAN, n.

  1. A believer in the religion of Christ. Simply believing doesn’t cut it. Demons also believe. (James 2:19)
  2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ. Many hypocrites profess belief in Christ with their lips, but their heart is far away from God. (Matthew 15:8)
  3. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety. No flesh will be justified in God’s sight by the works of the law. (Romans 3:20)
  4. In a general sense, the word Christian includes all who are born in a Christian country or of Christian parents. Our first birth is immaterial.  We must be born again of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-8)

NATION, n.

  1. A body of people inhabiting the same country, or united under the same sovereign or government; as the English nation; the French nation. It often happens that many nations are subject to one government; in which case, the word nation usually denotes a body of people speaking the same language, or a body that has formerly been under a distinct government, but has been conquered, or incorporated with a larger nation. Thus the empire of Russia comprehends many nations, as did formerly the Roman and Persian empires. Nation, as its etymology imports, originally denoted a family or race of men descended from a common progenitor, like tribe, but by emigration, conquest and intermixture of men of different families, this distinction is in most countries lost.
  2. A great number, by way of emphasis. This definition does not apply.
  3. The etymology of “nation” shows the root word comes from the Latin nationem (nom. natio) “nation, stock, race,” literally “that which has been born.”

While the following passages are not the only definitions of a Christian, they contain the elements that are closest to my heart, emphasis added:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3:3-8)

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they [the Jews] heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38)

If being a Christian requires a second birth, a heart-piercing acknowledgment of sin, repentance from those sins, baptism, and a receipt of the indwelling Holy Spirit; and if a nation is comprised of people joined only by geography or government, who may or may not fit this definition of Christian; how can a nation possibly be Christian?   A Christian is an individual who has given their life to Christ.  It’s rare for an entire family to give their lives to Christ.  It stretches the imagination that even a small town would be comprised of all Christians.  An entire nation has never, and will never, be a Christian nation, regardless of the laws that may exist. It’s an oxymoron.

Governments are given the sword for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-14) Whenever government steps beyond that narrow mission, it is no longer in God’s will.

By claiming that America is a Christian nation,  we claim that what is done by our government is done in Christ’s name.  On a smaller scale, it’s the same principle that applies to a car with a fish on the back.  If that car cuts someone off, or otherwise drives in a reckless manner, the driver brings shame and reproach on the name of Christ.

When our government tortures people and kills innocent people – like native Americans or those who live over oil fields or other coveted lands – it brings shame and reproach on the name of Christ.

Again, I have no doubt that many of those who founded our country were Christians.  I have no doubt that they did their best to create a government that would please God.  But that did not make us, or our nation,  Christians.

In a previous post on church and state, I concluded this way:

American Christians typically approach government from one of two perspectives. Desiring to help those in need, they use the government to redistribute wealth. Others, motivated to see repentance from sin, use the government to define and enforce moral behavior.

Both positions use the coercion of the state to enforce religious practice. Neither position draws people to Christ, and in fact, interferes with the work of the Holy Spirit. In addition, it allows Christians to avoid their personal obligation to speak the truth with love, help those in need, and preach the gospel to all creation.

If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals. Neither do laws save people. God changes people, and God alone, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, can save people.

I believe the real, underlying problem in this controversy is a matter of motivation.

If our goal is to make this world a better place according to what we consider important, which is largely based on dominionism – to raise moral standards, to reduce poverty levels, to educate, to increase longevity – then passing  laws  may accomplish that, although a recent NY Times article by David Brooks points to a conflicting result:

Roughly a century ago, many Swedes immigrated to America. They’ve done very well here. Only about 6.7 percent of Swedish-Americans live in poverty. Also a century ago, many Swedes decided to remain in Sweden. They’ve done well there, too. When two economists calculated Swedish poverty rates according to the American standard, they found that 6.7 percent of the Swedes in Sweden were living in poverty.

In other words, you had two groups with similar historical backgrounds living in entirely different political systems, and the poverty outcomes were the same.

A similar pattern applies to health care. In 1950, Swedes lived an average of 2.6 years longer than Americans. Over the next half-century, Sweden and the U.S. diverged politically. Sweden built a large welfare state with a national health service, while the U.S. did not. The result? There was basically no change in the life expectancy gap. Swedes now live 2.7 years longer.

Again, huge policy differences. Not huge outcome differences.

I suspect that if someone could calculate the Christianity of  two different countries, one of which had laws about a National Day of Prayer and many Christian symbols strewn about, and the other which completely ignored religion, the results would be the same.  Governments do not make Christians.  It’s not their job.

If our goal, however, is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), then government laws are at best irrelevant, and at worst counterproductive.  As Jim from the Chestnut Tree Cafe commented on the previous post, the atmosphere of the palace has always been deadly to the Church. Persecution is the food on which she grows.

We can fight to keep the National Day of Prayer and the other Christian elements contained in our government.  Or we can fight for souls.

God gives each individual the free will to choose to repent and follow Him, or to continue on the path to hell. Government should do the same. The language of the First Amendment in this regard is God-given:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ;

Among the last words attributed to Jesus in the Bible are these, addressed to the church in Laodicea:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  (Revelation 3:15-16)

Government laws, if they do anything, create lukewarm Christians.  What a heart-breaking tragedy.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’  (Luke 13:23-27)

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April 21st, 2010 | Author:

Once again this week I’m postponing the End of the Age review of the Olivet Discourse, so I can share what’s been happening on my blog recently.  The good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll return to it next week.

In 1985, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, before the fall of the Berlin wall,  Sting released a cold-war protest song titled “Russians,” where he pronounced that because of  “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” there’s no such thing as a “winnable war.”  Here’s a video if you want to listen.

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki 8/9/45

It has a haunting melody based on the Lieutenant Kijé Suite by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, and the repeating refrain goes this way:

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

Having been raised during the Vietnam War and the Cold War, I know that this song seriously challenged the popular American rhetoric that those nasty Commies were somehow less than human.

It parallels the current American rhetoric leading up to our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in that Muslims are also less than human.  While I don’t support Islam or its goals, neither do I support the attitude displayed by General Tommy Franks when asked about those killed during the Iraq invasion:  “You know we don’t do body counts.”  Or phrased another way, as evidenced by the recent Wikileak video, any dead Muslim is a good Muslim.

1 am update: I have just read a letter written by two soldiers who were in Iraq, to the Iraqi people.  This paragraph jumped out at me:

Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Apparently, I am not alone in this.

My recent blog traffic, I believe, refutes these attitudes, and I state categorically that the Russians – and the Iraqis and the Afghans and people all over the world – do love their children, and I’ll tell you why.

Last November, I did a post that included photos of aborted babies.  Recently, for whatever reasons Google uses, one of those photos is now first in line when you search their images for “aborted fetus.”  This has increased my blog traffic dramatically, as you can see by this chart.

I have always gotten a little traffic from other countries, but nothing like this. In fact, here’s a list of the countries where people have searched out this image in the past week or so.

* Australia
* Austria
* Bosnia
* Brazil
* Canada
* Chile
* China
* Croatia
* Germany
* Guatemala
* Guayana
* Herzegovina
* Iceland
* India
* Indonesia
* Ireland
* Israel
* Italy
* Japan
* Malaysia
* Mexico
* Netherlands
* Netherlands Antilles
* New Zealand
* Pakistan
* Panama
* Philippines
* Portugal
* Romania
* Slovenia
* Spain
* Taiwan
* Turkey
* United Arab Emirates
* United Kingdom
* United States

This has caused me to wonder why all these people from all these very different cultures were seeking out photos of dead babies.  Was a woman in New Zealand mourning a baby she aborted? Did a Muslim from Turkey want to see evidence of what America is exporting? Was one of the people from China a woman who was forced to abort a second child by the government?

The only common thread I could find among all these different people is the same one that Sting sang about:  “We share the same biology.”  Regardless of what we have been taught, regardless of the religion or politics of our country, regardless of how loudly we may proclaim our “right to choose,” instinctively we all know that a fetus is a precious child.  Paul speaks of this knowledge in his letter to the Romans:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (Romans 2:14-15)

My prayer is that all those who look at these photos while contemplating an abortion will recognize and protect the life that grows inside them.

My prayer is that all those who have already had an abortion will allow their conscience to acknowledge their guilt and turn to the only one who can remove that guilt, Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that abortion around the world will become a thing of the past.  What’s written on your heart?

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:13-16)

But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices, And served their idols, Which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. (Psalms 106:35-38)

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Category: abortion, Bible, Christianity, politics, war, Word for Wednesday  | Comments off
April 11th, 2010 | Author:

Stolen shamelessly from LibertarianChristians.com:

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Category: grins, politics  | 6 Comments
April 10th, 2010 | Author:

Papa Mike’s blog has posted a time line for Obamacare, that helps clarify what comes when (along with a couple interesting cartoons.)  Among all the particulars, this one jumped out at me:

2012
§ 1099 reporting: Businesses will have to complete 1099 forms for every business-to-business transaction of $600 or more – a tremendous new paperwork burden for small business.

And this is going to help the economy.

Hornberger’s Blog comments on the pilots in the WikiLeaks video:

However, there is one part of the WikiLeaks video that I wish to address — the reaction of the helicopter pilots upon learning that there were two children who were shot and injured during the melee. Their reaction, in fact, perfectly exemplifies the mindset that has long characterized U.S. officials, including those in the Pentagon.

When the pilots discovered that they had shot the two Iraqi kids, here was their exchange:

“Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”

“That’s right.”

No remorse, no anguish, no regret, no concern. Just callous indifference to the possibility that the lives of two innocent children might have just been snuffed out.

What will be the reaction of the relatives of those two Iraqi children, who lost their father in the attack? Surely, even the most ardent pro-war advocates would not deny the obvious: the relatives will be filled with anger and rage.

Welcome to the world of U.S. foreign policy and terrorist blowback.

Never let it be said that our immoral actions have consequences.

CNSNews.com: shows us the value of “Energy Star” ratings from the EPA:

The Environmental Protection Agency certified that a “gas-powered clock radio” was an energy-efficient product under the government’s Energy Star program, despite the fact that neither the clock nor its manufacturer ever existed. The clock and 14 other phony products were part of an investigation into the Energy Star program conducted by the Government Accountability Office, which submitted 20 fraudulent Energy Star applications from four fake companies.  The EPA evaluated 16 of those products while the Department of Energy (DOE) evaluated four. Fifteen of the phony products – including the gas-powered alarm clock – and all four of the fake companies were certified by EPA/DOE under the Energy Star program.

Last, but not least, the President’s wife has finally acknowledged where Barrack calls home, so quit scoffing at all those birthers:

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