Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Liberty is Community

My family meets regularly with a discussion group that covers all things related to the topic of liberty.  I learn a lot from these discussions, and our last meeting was no exception.  A new member of the group brought up something that really got me thinking.  He stated that he thought that people should have their basic human needs taken care of:  food, clothing, shelter, etc.  After a little bit of discussion, it became apparent that he was a very compassionate person who was concerned that without at least minimal government intervention, people who are poor or unable to care for themselves would be abandoned with no one to take care of them.

Interesting question, isn't it?  At least I thought so.  Think about it for a minute.  What if there was no government?  Is it really true that without government as we now know it, masses of people would find themselves starving and homeless?  I have to confess that for a while now, this has been a conundrum for me in evaluating my beliefs about government.  Although I disagree with most, if not all, of the actions of current governments, deep-down I had the same concerns as my new discussion group friend.  Without some kind of government structure, where is the justice for the weakest members of society?  Wouldn't a stateless society be a world where the strong oppress the weak and chaos reigns?  It would be survival-of-the-fittest with the weak and powerless simply being left to die, right?

Let me stop for a second and define my terms.  When I say "government" or "the state", I'm not merely talking about leadership or organization, I'm talking about a group of people in a society who have the ability to use force to control the behavior of others in the society.  Maybe others would define it differently, but for the purposes of this discussion that's what I'm referring to here.  Does a society require someone with guns to force them to care for others, or could a completely free society accomplish this?  What is actually necessary in a society to assure that people's basic needs are met?

I have a hard time with big, philosophical questions like this unless I have a practical example, so during our discussion group and afterward I was thinking of people I know who have fallen on hard times and needed help, and times when I've received help from others myself.  I was thinking about what happens when we help each other compared to what happens when government steps in.

The first example I thought of is a good friend of mine who is a single mom of three little ones.  We get together often and I have at times raided my pantry and sent her home with some extra groceries, or we have had their family over for a meal.  I buy in bulk for my large family, so I can share some of my savings with her.  I suppose I could just pay my taxes and she could just go get food stamps, which she could easily qualify for, but I think we would both miss out on a blessing if we relied on government to help.  One really cool thing I would miss out on is the fact that my friend is a much better cook than I am and she cooks for us when we eat together!  She also likes to clean and has even been known to come over and clean my bathroom, which for someone like me, whose love language is "acts of service", is the ultimate expression of love!  The point is, by helping each other, we build relationships and community, something that government can't accomplish by simply handing out checks.

Another example is an online friend of mine who shared a story about a time when her husband was out of work and they had very little food in their house.  A neighbor, suspecting that they were out of food, actually called social services to tattle on them.  A social worker showed up at their door and told them that if they didn't sign up for government assistance their children would be removed from the home.  The social worker gave her a ride and helped her fill out the paperwork to avoid having her children taken away.

This story is bizarre on many levels, but it showed me how messed up things get when we become accustomed to relying on government to meet basic needs.  Do you suppose my friend's neighbor even considered the idea of dropping off a bag of groceries instead of reporting her?  How about the social worker who gave her a ride and helped her with paperwork?  Do you think it crossed her mind to give her a ride to the store instead and buy her some food?  How do you suppose it made my friend feel to have this experience compared to how she would have felt if someone would have met her need without involving government?

When I look at these examples, it seems obvious to me that government can't do what community and relationships can do, and that our dependence on government kills community.  I had struggled with how to write about this, but a blog post and comments I read from blogger friends Tim and David helped me to see it more clearly.  It was pointed out that before we had so many government services available to us, there was a much greater demand for charity and kindness, so the supply of those things rose to meet the demand.  People knew how to support each other.  I hear many people complain about how people don't help each other out like they used to, but what do we expect?  The need to build community is eliminated when there is a government program for every need, and we're left with neighbors who don't even know each other and a whole lot of people complaining about welfare recipients taking their hard-earned money (I know you get those forwarded e-mails too).  If the goal of that system is cutting people off from all possible support systems, making them dependent, and creating class warfare, then it's working great.  If the goal is to actually meet people's needs, it's an utter failure.  We won't have community until we have liberty.  How do we get liberty?  Well, that's another question I ponder often.  If you're asking it too, the video in my previous post might be helpful.      

The Philosophy of Liberty

This is probably the simplest explanation of liberty I have ever seen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Dishwater University Course Offering: The Great Church Audit

These podcasts from Jim Staley are what I've been listening to lately.  Actually, I'm going through them with my husband and I've been listening over again while doing dishes and chores.  There is a lot to this, and it's challenging stuff, but it's well worth the investment of time.  Here is the description of the series from the website:

What is Sin?
The question might sound simple, but the answer might just surprise you!  This is one of the most popular teachings Jim has ever done and is now available on Podomatic!  This is an in-depth 5 hour teaching that starts with an exhaustive definition of sin.  Then, a full explanation of all the covenants in the Old Testament and how they affect the New Covenant.  Then, he ends the series by going through virtually every single verse in the New Testament that has been misunderstood concerning Paul, Jesus, and the Law of God.  This is a MUST for every serious student of the Bible.  If you know someone who has a hard time believing that the Torah is for today, THIS is the series for them as it is a very methodical, apologetic look at the entire Bible from the Hebraic perspective.

My family has had an interest in the Hebraic roots of our faith for awhile now, and while this particular teaching series is new to us, we have been greatly blessed by Passion for Truth Ministries and Jim Staley's teaching.  If you've ever wondered what the Hebrew-Roots Movement is all about (as we did), I would encourage you to check out everything they have available for free on their website, Youtube, and Podomatic.

Here's a little added bonus if you think that all this study of the Old Testament is dry and boring, or that it leads to rigid legalism.  This is a video of some great (in my opinion, anyway) worship music from Passion for Truth.  Notice the dancers in front!:

I Surrender--PFT Worship Team

Hope you enjoy the links! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DHS's See Something, Say Something Campaign

This is a video promoting Homeland Security's "See Something, Say Something" campaign encouraging people to spy on their fellow citizens.  I find it hard to believe this is for real, but I checked it out and it's a real $10 million ad campaign.  Disturbing.  It just seems like things are changing quickly in this country and I wonder where it's all going.  Think I'm going to focus on non news-related topics today because this stuff is discouraging.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Something Strange Happened In Nevada

I'm going to talk some politics, even though most of the time I prefer to discuss my beliefs about government (political philosophy), rather than the specifics of the current political game.  

I mentioned in a comment on my last post that I am a Ron Paul supporter.  I also alluded to my belief that, while Dr. Paul's ideas are having an influence on Americans' view of government, the "powers-that-be" will never allow him to appear on a major party ticket.  While that may put me into the ranks of conspiracy theorists, I believe that the powerful group of politicians and corporate special interests at the top determine what choices we, the "proletariat", are offered at the ballot box.  A selection from either party is acceptable, as long as corporate interests and the warfare state are well-represented, so that there is no real transfer of power.  

A candidates' ownership by corporate interests is easy enough to secure;  just purchase his loyalty with huge donations.  (Go ahead and Google the leading candidates' top campaign contributors if you're not convinced.)  The support for perpetual war is also important because people who are convinced of its necessity to protect their safety are easier to control and extract money from.  

We can choose Democrat or Republican, and bicker over the scraps from the table all we want, as long as no actual regime change takes place.  If we don't like the figurehead that's out front, we will be given the opportunity to choose a new president from acceptable options.  The people will get all fired up, choose a new leader, breathe a sigh of relief at dodging the bullet of socialism, or evil corporate greed, and go on about their business just trying to live their lives on what's left of their paychecks, unaware that socialism and corporate greed march on alive and well, and that their "important election" actually changed nothing.  This is why I hold the unpopular view that voting means very little, and that we will not be able to vote ourselves out of socialism or corporatism.  At this point, I see our two-party system as merely an illusion to keep the masses persuaded that they are choosing for themselves.

Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, let me at least point out that I was inspired to write about this because of an article I read this morning,  Ron Paul’s Nevada Disappointment: Apathy? or Fraud? by Joel McDurmon.  The article pointed out that Ron Paul's disappointing third place finish in the Nevada caucus was a bizarre anomaly.  This graph showing Paul's statistics from the 2008 and 2012 caucuses speaks for itself:     

So what happened in Nevada?  Paul's support has increased by at least 87% over 2008 in every caucus so far.  His team had made 100,000 phone calls in the days before the caucus, and they had identified up to 24,000 committed voters.  They expected at least an easy second place result, and possibly a big win.  As you can see, only a fourth of those voters showed up, a mere 1% increase over the 2008 vote.  Maybe there was a big sale at Penneys and they just forgot.  After all, Paul's supporters are known to be a pretty apathetic lot, right?  I won't even insult your intelligence by trying to convince you that something's fishy here.

I don't think the political and corporate elites are worried about a third-party run by Ron Paul.  Their major concern is to make sure he is not chosen as the Republican candidate.  Typically, all a third-party candidate can do is to pull votes away from major party candidates.  As long as they don't defeat the two-party illusion and actually win the election, they are nothing more than a distraction.  The people believe that democracy has prevailed, and the status quo goes on unimpeded.

I know, I know...I sound so bitter and negative.  I hate that.  So what's the positive in this?  The positive is that unexpected things sometimes happen.  Sometimes it's election results, but surprising changes can come from other sources too.  Never underestimate the power of one man standing on his principles and speaking out, no matter who labels him a kook, or an isolationist, or "unelectable" (What are those crazy Texans thinking, electing a man who's unelectable over, and over, and over?).  I believe many people are listening, but changes in ideology take longer than just a couple of election cycles.

The most common thing I hear is,  "I like Ron Paul, but I disagree with his foreign policy."  That tells me that Paul's ideas are having an influence, but for some reason people still hold on to their pro-war ideology.  I keep asking myself why war is the sticking point for so many, and why we like it so much.  Is it because we're afraid of terrorism?  According to law enforcement, potential home-grown terrorists are apparently lurking on every corner right here (You know, those Ron Paul supporters, gun-rights advocates, "sovereign citizens", pro-lifers), so I'm not sure if that's it.  Maybe for evangelicals it's because we want to support Israel, but we seem to have no problem supporting her enemies when it's convenient, so I'm not convinced that's it.

Somehow this idea of empire-building all over the world seems to be all wrapped up in the flag and patriotism and sealed with a cross.  To borrow a phrase from a friend, we "put a God sticker on it".  This ideology  persists in spite of the fact that it's bankrupting us and causing other nations to despise us, which actually makes us less safe.  You can see that it smacks of religion when it supersedes the Bible itself.  When Ron Paul suggested in one of the debates that we should follow the Golden Rule in our foreign relations and do unto others as we'd want them to do to us, he was booed!  I have to wonder how many of those Republicans that were booing the scriptures are Christians.  So just what God is it that we follow in this "Christian" nation?  I have to admit, the war-mongering still has me baffled.  If I sort it out, I guess that will have to be a topic for another post.

I think that's enough politics and crazy conspiracy-theorist ramblings for now, so I will think on these things some more and get back to you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Something Else to Make Your Brain Itch

I've been spending a lot of time lately studying and reevaluating my beliefs about government.  I'm sure I'll be writing more about that, but tonight I'm having trouble sleeping and I was reminded of something I hadn't thought about in a while, so I thought I'd share it.  It was a question that kind of rocked my world early on in my journey.

The question has to do with the American Revolution.  Now we all know that this was a war fought to throw off tyranny and injustice, and that after the colonists' victory, they wrote a constitution and became a new nation.  The question that was posed to me was this:  After they won the war and achieved independence from a tyrannical government, why didn't they just go home to their colonies and live as free men?

But, wait a minute!  I'm a Patriotic American Christian!  Are you suggesting that they could've just skipped the Constitutional Convention altogether?  No president?  No congress?  No supreme court?  Blasphemy!  Or maybe not...oh, quit asking me such hard questions!  (This is me inside my own head.)

And another related question I've more recently been asking myself:  When it's time to vote for the next president, should I just write in "No, thank you."?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dishwater University

I do not have a dishwasher.  I have nine people in my family.  In the division of labor around here, I am the designated dishwasher.  This means I spend a lot of time standing at my kitchen sink.  It is boring.  I have decided to make the best of this tedious task, so I've started something I like to call  "Dishwater University".  I set up my computer next to where I'm working, plug in a set of speakers, and play audio or video messages that I find educational.  My recent favorites have been Passion for Truth Ministries and the Mises Institute, which I've placed links to there on the right side of the page.

Today's class was an audio book from the Mises Institute called "Our Enemy The State" by Albert Jay Nock.  I was so enthralled with this book that I kept having to grab my pencil and post-it note pad with my drippy hands to write something down.  By the time I was done with the dishes, there were green post-its covered with notes stuck all over everything!  Wow, I am a nerd.

A couple of quotes from the book description on the Mises site:

"What does one need to know about politics? In some ways, Nock has summed it all up in this astonishing book, the influence of which has grown every year since its publication."

"It is the ultimate handbook of the political dissident. If you aren't one yet, you may find that Nock is a very persuasive recruiter into his informed army that makes up the remnant who know."

The gist of the book is a contrast between social power (the power of society to order itself) and state power.  I've only listened to Parts 1 and 2 so far, but if you want to get your brain itching (Thank you Tim, if you're reading this, for coining the phrase), I highly recommend this book!  I have been studying the topics of government and political philosophy and how it all relates to the Bible (so much to learn), and this is giving me much food for thought.  I'm working on a blog post about this, but that may take a bit longer.

I'm sure I'll have more to share from the Dishwater University class schedule in the future!

Raising Young Men (or Just a Cute Story About My Kids!)

Let me set up the story for you.  Josiah is my just-turned-4-year-old, Naomi is my 6-year-old, and Will is my 9-year-old.  My kids have been outside helping Dad with firewood and playing in the snow for hours.

Josiah comes inside holding his snowy mitten in his hand.  He says,  "My glub fell off.  Can you help me put it back on?"  While I'm doing that, he spots an open bag of baby carrots I'm snacking on.  He asks,  "Can me have a carrot?"  I hand him a carrot and he heads happily back outside.

A little while later he's back again, once again with the mitten in his hand.  He asks again if I can help.  While I'm putting the mitten on him, he asks,  "Can me have two carrots?"  So I hand him two carrots and once again he heads out the door.

A few minutes later, he comes back in.  This time he says,  "Me told a lie.  Me took off my glub myself.  Naomi wanted a carrot."  Choking back laughter, I give him a hug and tell him I'm proud of him for telling the truth and remind him that he can just ask if someone wants a carrot.  He of course asks for more carrots, then heads back out the door once again.  As he's tromping out the door into the snow he says,  "Will told me to come tell the truth."

Oh, the joys of being a mom!  :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Politically-Incorrect Marriage Advice

Ephesians 5:22-33

New International Version (NIV)
 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This passage in Ephesians is one of the most oft-quoted passages on marriage in the Bible and many have written about what it means.  "Submission" is one of those dirty words that gets us into trouble and a lot of controversy.  Usually the discussion goes to one extreme or the other--either the focus is on the iron-clad rule of a wife's submission, or it's the other extreme of how we're just supposed to submit to each other (The verse before this says, "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.")  I really have no interest in those controversies here because I think when we have these arguments we're missing the point of what was being taught.  Suffice it to say that I believe in submitting to my husband's leadership, and if you're interested in arguing about whether I should or not, you can find lots of other places to hash that out online.

So, now that we have the controversy out of the way I can get back to my point.  The point is that I think we often miss the point!  What I see here is God's helpful instruction cluing us in to the greatest needs of our spouse.  We're getting some valuable information here!  Could it be possible that we don't have a clue how to meet the needs of a person of the opposite sex and that we need some help with that?  So what are the instructions we're being given?  Well, for husbands it's to love your wife, treat her with great care, and sacrifice yourself for her.  For wives, it is the instruction to follow your husband's lead and give him your respect.  (This implies that men and women are different and have different needs.  Another politically-incorrect idea, but nevertheless, true.)    

One problem we often have is that we don't read our own instructions!  Husbands are often preoccupied with getting their wives to respect them and submit, and wives are busy pointing out all the ways their husbands fall short and are not worthy of their respect.  I think we can benefit most from this passage by letting our spouse worry about their own instructions while we focus in on what was written to us specifically.  After all, the overarching theme is to submit to the other person and put their needs ahead of your own.  

I can personally testify that when you simply follow your own instructions, you can see miraculous changes in your marriage.  Trying to change your spouse is about like banging your head against a brick wall anyway, so there's not much point.  Yourself however, well, that's something you can do something about!  I have more times than I care to admit, gone to God lamenting all the ways my husband isn't meeting my needs.  The answer that always comes back is this:

Matthew 7:3-5

New International Version (NIV)
   3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Ouch!  The Lord always reminds me to first look at whether I'm following my own instructions.  There is a time and a place to talk to my husband about my needs, but this works a lot better when he can see that I'm making a sincere effort to do my part in the relationship.

So that's my best politically-incorrect marriage advice:  read the instructions!

My favorite resource for learning about marriage is Love and Respect Ministries.  If you are married or ever plan to be, I highly recommend this site and the resources there.  If you are one of my single friends and you get married, their book or audio book will probably be your wedding gift!

I'm hoping to write some more on marriage soon--specifically on wives respecting their husbands.  I'd also love to get to the topics of liberty and political philosophy (Political philosophy, not politics.  There's a difference.  Perhaps that should be my first topic!).  There's just so much to say on this, I'm working on where to start, so I'm open to suggestions!