Saturday, November 04, 2006

Election Realities

The New York Times is crowing that the Republicans are doomed in the upcoming elections. I hope and pray they are wrong. All I can do is offer these considerations. With the elections days away, there are three hard and unpleasant realities that need to be faced by all voters.

1. The war in Iraq is not going well, although progress has been made. You cannot easily paste a republic over a culture that knows little of the sensibilities and morality required for a constitutional order that recognizes fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It is not 1776 in Iraq. This is a conservative observation, not a liberal one. Culture is deeper than politics; and culture is rooted in worldview.

However, whatever the long-term prospects for Iraq may be, and whether or not the United States should have invaded Iraq, to pull out of Iraq now would result giving the country over to the terrorists. The jihadists will not be placated by an American withdrawal; they would, rather, be emboldened, just as they were emboldened by the USSR’s withdrew from Afghanistan. Terrorists are never placated or appeased; any concession to them is their victory and their empowerment. If the jihadists take over Iraq, civilization will be further jeopardized, and all the American soldiers who died for this cause—however noble they may have been in battle—will have died for the sake of a defeat, not for a victory. For more on this, see the essays by Victor Davis Hanson for National Review on line.

Now, which party wants to leave Iraq as soon as possible? Which party views Islamic terrorism as essentially a criminal problem? Which party thinks that the terrorists will back off if we try to “understand their pain” and make concessions to them? That would be the Democrats, not the Republicans. The latter are, of course, not perfect in their understanding of Islamic fascism; neither are their strategies always for the best. But at the end of the day, the Republicans understand that we fighting a war for civilzation; the Democrats do not.

2. The push to fund embryonic stem cell research with federal and state dollars is tremendous. In some cases, this means creating a member of the human race in order to destroy it for the purpose of (possibly) helping another human being. This is what is advanced by Proposition 2 in Missouri. See The National Right to Life article on this. In other cases, preexisting embryos are used and killed. This orientation is merely instrumental, utilitarian—and inhuman. Moreover, embryonic stem cells have yielded no beneficial results for treating diseases and no one knows if they will. Private groups are not poring money into this line of research. If they were, there would be more evidence of possible therapeutic results. But positive results are immaterial. A human society does not create and destroy humans for the sake of other humans. You treat humans as ends (because they bear God’s image), not a means to other ends. See the on-line essays by Charles Colson, Robert George, and Nigel Cameron on this topic.

Which party supports state and federal funding for embryonic stem cell research? Which party attacks attempts to protect embryonic life as “anti-science” and “theocratic”? It is the Democrats, of course. And we must never forget that it is the Democrats who support abortion on demand (including partial-birth abortions) as a constitutional right. Thus over a million human fetuses are legally slaughtered every year in the United States, and have been since 1973.

3. Having thrown off the concept of creation and the idea that moral principles built into the universe by its Creator and Designer, millions stump for equal legitimacy and equal legal privileges for “same sex couples,” even claiming the state should create a new category never heard of in human history: same sex marriage (an oxymoron, to be sure). Consult the on line essays by Charles Colson on this issue.

Which party endorses same sex marriage a fundamental human right? Which party would overturn millennia of moral tradition and pore contempt on the Bible’s view of marriage? It is the Democrats, once again.

Given these immensely important issues, who deserves your vote next week? Yes, some Democrats will demur on one or more of these points and not all Republicans agree with what I’ve written above. But one has to remember that whichever gains a majority, calls the shots. The rogue Democrat who opposes embryonic stem cell creation and destruction or opposes pulling out of Iraq has little say in the party’s platform and will usually vote with his or party anyway. Like it or not, party politics is what moves politics in America. See Hugh Hewitt’s book, If It’s Not Close they Can’t Cheat on that.

Therefore, I adjure you:

1. Do not let the Democrats pull our troops out of Iraq prematurely.
2. Do not let the Democrats let loose billions of dollars of governmental money to fund stem cell destruction.
3. Do not let the Democrats redefine marriage as same sex coupling.

That is, do not vote for Democrats on November 7.

45 comments:

Dan Edelen said...

Douglas,

A Republican congresswoman wants to build a nuclear waste facility a few miles from my home in SW Ohio. Thousands of people live within ten miles of that proposed installation. In addition, any groundwater that might seep into that storage would taint the nearby Ohio River and the entire city of Cincinnati a few miles downstream! That's insanity!

The Republican leadership in Ohio has taken our state from having one of the largest coffers in the country to near bankruptcy. They wish to close down our state library system as a result. Ohio now leads the country in job losses. People are hurting. I keep hearing about the country's great economy and low unemployment--come to Ohio and see what it's really like.

Republican leaders in Ohio have been indicted for fraud, embezzlement, theft, and a dozen other vices in just the last four years. Even our senators have turned on us. They don't listen to what the people here are telling them. They've sold us out.

Republican leaders in Congress and the Senate continue to lobby for more H-1B visas to take good-paying jobs away from hardworking Americans. They support big business over the little guy, making it impossible for small businesses to compete fairly. They support eminent domain programs that tear homes away from lower middle class folks so developers can build luxury strip malls for the rich. They support programs that inflict the maximum environmental damage to exploit natural resources without considering slightly more expensive ways to reach those resources without despoiling the land. They hurt small farmers and line the pockets of conglomerate agribusinesses.

I could go on and on.

Don't make this into a showcase of morals. The Republicans are as immoral as the Democrats are; their immorality is just different.

Our politicians in both parties do not represent the average Joe in America. They represent deviants or thieves. Who can possibly decide which of those two evils is the lesser?

I can't anymore.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Sure, some Republicans are creeps. It's a fallen world. But nothing you said touches my fundamental arguments, which address the most important issues of our time. The Democrats are wrong on all of them. They cannot be trusted with power, especially in war-time--and they do not even know that it is war-time.

Pat said...

Dan,

I can appreciate the dilemma your in. Republican corruption in Ohio may very well be as bad as you paint it. Making a choice between two evils is never easy. You certainly have the right and obligation to be angry about the fallen nature of our world.

However, it seems to me, that all of us must look at the larger picture of what is involved. Doug's argument holds. It is clear, concise and persuasive.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I am not taking sides in the Ohio race concerning issues raised by Dan, when I say that "some Republicans are creeps." I am just making a general point.

Tom Hinkle said...

Well, it doesn't persuade me. In fact, I am tired of fundamentalists telling me how, as a Christian, I should vote. I don't drink the Dobson/Falwell Kool-aid.

Here in Oklahoma, where I live, it sickens me to see politicians use God and use their religion to pander to the masses and get votes. Meanwhile, such hateful attack ads from so-called Christians you've never seen in all your life. That convinces me more to, for the most part, vote Democratic. It helps, of course, that the incompetent Bush administration got us involved in a war through lies and faulty intelligence. How many more of our troops have to die before the fundys value their lives as much as human embryos used for research?

And gay marriage is almost a non-issue, no matter how much the Dobson/Falwellians want to make it. How would allowing gays to marry affect your marriage? Not a whit.

I think it's a little presumptuous for someone to tell anyone how to vote anyway, especially in this election. After all, a person in Colorado has no grasp of issues in Ohio or Oklahoma or anywhere else. So if it sound like I resent being told how to vote, maybe it's because I do.

gimmepascal said...

Dr. Groothuis,

You said:

"Sure, some Republicans are creeps. It's a fallen world. But nothing you said touches my fundamental arguments, which address the most important issues of our time. The Democrats are wrong on all of them."

I'm just curious how you have come to the conclusion that these are the most important issues of our time. And if so, for whom? Americans?

As for the third point you made, I am afraid, sadly, that Ted Haggard's recent admissions will affect the polls tremendously. A Christian hypocrite seems to fall the hardest, and those who were wavering on this issue might now vote for same-sex marriage just because of this this type of thinking: if even the leading criticizer of same-sex marriage cannot fight against the urge to have sex with the same sex, why are we crusading against it? Let's all lighten up a bit and be open-minded. Besides, it will be great to see that it was one of these anti-gay Republican Christian slicksters who contributed to same-sex marriage becoming legal.

I know this is a ridiculous line of thinking, but my generation is in many ways ridiculous.

But back to my earlier questions: Are these really the most important issues of our time? And if so, why? And for whom are they the most important?

I agree with your stance on these particular issues, but would that be enough to push me to support the Repulicans?

I'm not really sure anymore.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Mr. Hinkle is all feeling and opinion and almost no argument. He is "tired." What logical force does that have? People got tired of Jesus, Paul, Jeremiah, etc.

I don't follow Falwell, Robertson, etc. I never even referred to them in the essay, but to solid thinkers, some of whom are academics.

Hinkle gave no arguments against the gravity of the positions I presented--only fulminations.

These national issues really trump local issues in the over scheme of things. If the jihadists get their way, civilization is done for. One nuke in your back yard can ruin your whole day. Don't laugh; it is possible. They would dance in the streets and praise Allah.

Morever, Democrats are typically wrong on local issues: they are statists (high taxes for making everything part of the civil government); they are overregulators (hurting free enterprise); they are usually hostile to Christians involvement in politics (except the black church, which votes Democrat); etc.

Kevin Winters said...

As much as these are big issues, I think that education should be an even bigger concern given that education will influence the coming generations more than same-sex issues or Iraq. With the huge failure of the No Child Left Behind Act--which simply amounts to pushing more and more the things that aren't working in the first place--and the decline of teachers across the nation--because people do have families to feed and morgages to pay--our children and their children are being taught that education is simply passing standardized tests and that teaching will require more debts to get there than the teaching career itself can pay off. You may blame TV for these declines, but our educational policies are not helping in the least.

On the issue of Iraq, I'm not aware of any Democrats who desire to "pull out of Iraq now." It seems to be universally admitted that doing so would make the situation worse. So I don't think that a very good reason as it seems to be working off of a false generalization of Democratic ideas.

I, for one, decide to vote for individuals, not parties. I think the whole bipartisan split that is currently rampant in the US is doing more damage than any one party can do, whether Republican or Democrat. It causes so much bickering among "liberals" and "conservatives" who are not willing to look past the titles to the issues themselves. In fact, it is the same faulty generalizations that I find in your treatment of so-called "postmoderns"--the reduction of a complex group of individuals who themselves don't entirely agree on any particular issue to a collection of slogans. Don't vote Republican or Democrat; vote for individuals who are not entirely contained within any simplified generalization.

Tom Hinkle said...

Dear professor,

How about having the courtesy to address me directly rather than in the third person?

If you want arguments, a very good case could be made that the Iraq policy followed by the Bush administration has created more terrorists, not less, thereby putting the security of the United States in greater jeopardy than it was. The fact is, the Bush administration has NO EXIT POLICY, they have no plan to eventually withdraw, which means that we this war could drag out five, ten, twenty years. Who knows how long? The Republicans in Congress generally are just shills for the administration. Most Democrats are not, contrary to popular opinion, supporting immediate withdrawal, but there are at least some plans floating out there to set some kind of timetable.

Again, I want YOU to present me an argument (and I could not access the entire Colson link) why gay marriage is such an important issue and just exactly what damage would it cause to you, your marriage, or society in general if gays were allowed to marry.

I haven't researched enough on the stem cell issue to have an opinion one way or the other right now so I'll opt out of that argument.

The reason I say I'm "tired", which you ridiculed, is that I'm fed up with the evangelical movement being in the back pocket of the Republican party. Christianity is not the same as conservative politics, but it is in many people's minds now because of the way certain factions of the church have sold out to the political machine. This corrupts the church and its mission. Maybe you should read Gregory Boyd's book "The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church." He says it better than I ever could.

Charles Rathmann said...

The content of this discussion is interesting. Years ago I used to be more political in my outlook. But over the years I have seen that politicians regardless of party are men of convenience. On both the left and the right they will exploit people of faith on the issues as they see fit. On the left (including to my dismay many Quakers), the anti-war contingency blindly support the same Democrats who voted FOR the war. Most recently, the administration courted the right with its promise of funding faith-based initiatives, and at least one insider has indicated that was an empty promise.

Also on the right, the fiscal conservatives support the Republicans who historically have always racked up deficits. On the whole, the only thing that makes sense to me is to REDUCE the overall size of the federal government to reduce the damage the politicians can do.

And when it comes to the war, those of us who would live in the Kingdom of Heaven may do well to remember Jesus' response to Pilate when asked if His followers would fight. Don't want to open up a can of worms there ...

But I digress. Main point -- the way we live our lives on a day-to-day basis will witness more powerfully to the truth than any ill-begotten decisions that come out of Washington. Policies, governments and even nations come and go. The Gospel is eternal.


In the Light of Christ,
~ Charles Rathmann

Santos Berrios said...

Mr. Hinkle said that "a very good case could be made that the Iraq policy followed by the Bush administration has created more terrorists, not less, thereby putting the security of the United States in greater jeopardy than it was." I was waiting for him to lay out that case for us but it never happened. I suppose the good argument is out there but he doesn't have it.

He also said President Bush has no "exit stategy". I've heard the president say at least a dozen times that "we will leave Iraq whe the job is done" (i.e. when the new government is self-suficient). I understand that not everyone may like this stategy but saying there is none is dishonest.

Santos Berrios said...

gimmepascal,

You said, "I know this is a ridiculous line of thinking, but my generation is in many ways ridiculous."

If you realize that the argumentation that came before this line was indeed ridiculous, why do you indulge in it?

Let's say that Haggard's action mean that he really did not believe what he was defending. That fact says nothing about the validity of the claim he was defending. It just says he is a hypocrite.

There is another possibility, though. It is possible that Haggard does believe what he is defending, but he was weak. That makes him inconsistent. That makes him a fallen human. Is this a possibility for the "open minded" or will you be inconsistent as well?

Santos Berrios said...

Dr Groothuis,

I'm praying and hoping with you. It seems to me that people do not realize how important this election may prove to be. Democrats voters hate Bush, republicans voters are mad because of matters of spending and immigration; small potatoes compared to the 3 issues you listed. In a poll I saw today, the majority of those that say will vote democrat give as their reason that "a change in leadership is needed" (54%)- I think this is code for "I hate Bush" ;-). Only 24% is voting democrat because they agree with the party's ideas.

Fletcher said...

Please read this commentary, which serves as a warning to us if our government becomes primarily Democratic.

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=17882

Dan Edelen said...

Fletcher,

The Human Events article is useless for one extremely important reason: It supposes what Democrats would do if in power based on how they voted against Republican-sponsored initiatives.

We're adults here. We know how bloc voting works. Our government has become one of bloc voting and bloc voting only. If similar bills had been sponsored by Democrats, we would have seen a reversal of the voting pattern. It's not so much the content of the bill or act, but which party sponsored it.

If we understand this, then little truth about future actions or responses can be gleaned from the Human Events info.

Dan Edelen said...

Santos,

Your points get lost amid more careful analysis.

Consider what happens to the medical services provided to a region filled with illegals. In many places in California, Texas, and Florida, medical facilities are going bankrupt because they are legally required to provide treatment, even to illegal immigrants. Those illegals never pay for their hospital visits. When the medical services collapse in a region, where does one go to get treatment?

If I live in such a region and I suffer a serious medical emergency, I'm just as dead if there's no viable medical facilities because they closed up due to unpaid bills as I am if a terrorist exploded a dirty bomb in my area.

Yes, we can talk scale here, but increasingly, large portions of the country are in crisis with a lack of medical care because of the illegal situation. Hundreds of people are dying because of this. If a hospital-less region sees two hundred people die who would not have otherwise, while hundreds of others suffer impaired health, that's not much different than a dirty bomb explosion in the same area.

We're seeing the scenario I'm raising even now.

Not every issue is as clear as some people claim. We can't make these issues either/or. They simply are not either/or issues. For that reason, we can't vote for someone solely because they'll stand strong for two or three of our pet issues. We must consider the entirety of what a legislator brings us, then prayerfully vote.

I can't support my Republican rep for her foolish desire to install a nuclear waste site a few miles from my home (and the homes of thousands of others). If we're talking terrorism here, what about terrorists doing something to damage the integrity of the storage at such a facility? Talk about a dirty bomb! If I wish to safeguard my community from terrorists, preventing the construction of a nuclear waste site in my community is a great way to start.

See, it's not as simple, is it?

Prof. David Opderbeck said...

As a law professor and an evangelical Christian, I find your position here deeply, deeply discouraging. How can you gloss over the enormous lie of Iraq so easily? Tens if not hundreds of thousands have died in Iraq because of Republican dishonesty and incompetence. How does prosecuting this war have anything to do with a Christian ethic? I think if someone like the prophet Micah were alive today, he'd roast us evangelicals over a spit about our support for the Iraq war. We can stay in Iraq forever, but it will never get better, because it was wrong from the get-go.

I do understand the concerns over stem cell research and gay marriage. On the marriage question, though, I'm not at all convinced that the Republican / religious right strategy of a constitutional amendment is just or wise. We evangelicals who believe in a traditional definition of marriage need to do much more careful thinking about this question before we go all guns for a constitutional amendment. Perhaps we need less government involvement and regulation of marriage rather than less. Perhaps we should recapture marriage as what it really is -- a sacred covenant with principally religious implications -- rather than spending so much energy on a secular legal definition in a pluralistic constitutional democracy.

And maybe we should consider whether the Church's witness is well served by the angry words this debate spawns. Did Christ command us to go into all the world and make laws about the definition of marriage? Is this really how this generation of evangelicals wants to be defined?

You are directly influencing the next generation of evangelical pastors in your key role as a seminary prof. I'm so tired of sitting in evangelical churches and cringing at the Rush Limbaugh-esq tripe that passes for Christian politics. Please, please turn off Fox News for a while, and read some Stassen, some Hauerwas, some MLK Jr. -- and some Jesus. Please, please don't influence another generation of preachers to confuse the Christian faith with the Republican party platform.

William Bradford said...

Again, I want YOU to present me an argument (and I could not access the entire Colson link) why gay marriage is such an important issue and just exactly what damage would it cause to you, your marriage, or society in general if gays were allowed to marry.

The shoe should be on the other foot. Homosexuals already have the right to cohabitate along with other rights Americans enjoy. Marriage is a legal recognition of a union between a man and a woman. It is through such relationships that children are born and raised. Marriage is as much about them as anything else. A healthy set of parental models includes a member of each sex.

Douglas Groothuis said...

To Prof. David Opderbeck:

I don't watch Fox News (or any TV). I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh. I do read Martin Luther King.

So often leftists accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being mindless ideologues. Well, I used to be liberal in politics until I started reading more. I didn't (and don't) take orders from any ideologue). I'm a philosopher. I come to my views through observation and reasoning. To assume otherwise is just poisoning the well and is thus a logical fallacy.

Moreover, there is no evidence that Bush lied about Iraq. That would be deeply reprehensible. The intelligence was limited; the stakes were high. Moreover, Saddam may have sent his WMDs to Syria or another terrorist nation. After all, we gave him such a long run- up to the invasion that is possible.

Again, if we pull out before Iraq is stabilized, it will become a terrorist state, whatever arguments we have about whether the US should have gone in to begin with. This must be addressed.

Christians should be wise citizens of heaven and earth. Earth counts. Laws count. Politicians count. "This is my Father's world." Christians should be involved in a wise way. That is what I try to do, but never at the expense of evangelism, apologetics, the church, etc.

Recommended reading:

Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square.

William F. Buckley, Up From Liberalism.

R.J. Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity.

Stephen Carter, God's Name in Vain.

gimmepascal said...

Santos Berrios,

I was not indulging in this argument myself, as you seem to think. I was merely making a prediction, which is that this Ted Haggard business will affect my generation's thinking on the issue of same-sex marriage, partly for the reasons I stated. I admitted that these reasons are ridiculous only to show how shallow and sensationalist my generation is.

This is a sad observation I am making about my own peers. Personally, this has zero influence on my view of same-sex marriage. I am firmly against it.

Of course I understand the nature of fallen humanity, and think that Haggard might very well strongly oppose same-sex marriage, despite his own personal weakness. But I never talked about any of these things in my post, so I am unclear about your insinuations.

I am talking about most of the people my age (mid-twenties) and they way they think about politics. Not myself.

nancy said...

Prof Opderbeck...and anyone else joining the "Bush Lied" bandwagon.

I too agree with Dr. G on the issue of the war in Iraq. In addition I do not listen to Limbaugh or watch FoxNews. The best articulator of what is at stake is Dr. Bernard Lewis. He has a grasp of the complexity of the Middle East that is amazing. His work is praised by Muslims as being accurate and thoughtful. You should read his work as he eloquently defends the notion that democracy can thrive in the Middle East and it would do so because of the cultural and historal moring it would have in Islamic history.(Lewis speaks of eras in which Islamic culture thrived and when Jewish/Muslim relations were amicable) Lewis clearly knows what is at stake in this conflict. To grasp the severity of the situation we must grasp at least some history, dating back to 700 A.D.

Lewis says "It may be that Western cutlure will indeed go; the lack of conviction of many of thwose who should be it's defenders and the passionate intenstiy of it's accusers may well join to acomplete it's destruction. But if it does to, the men and women of all the continents will thereby be impoverished and endangered."

Was there only one reason to go to war or was there a compelling case based on several factors. The book I have that was written before the war lays out 3 reasons.

Moreover, I'm a bit weary of the accusation of lying. That is a very strong statement. Yes, we did find WMD not just the mass deposits that many expected. And which POTUS was responsible for the dismantleing of our human intel such that our intelligence was not as solid as it should have been?

Yes, we Monday morning quarterbacks can find many legitimate faults with the execution of this war. And that is fair. And some may legitimately disagree with going to war in Iraq. But the arguement against the strategy to go to war must at somepoint take into account 1300 years of history.

Prof. David Opderbeck said...

Douglas,

Thanks for the reading list. I've read lots of Neuhaus, and other stuff by Buckley and Carter. In fact, if you look at my book list on law, faith and culture, you'll see that Neuhaus is top on my list. But to balance that, you need to read some other things, like Hauerwas. My highest recommendation right now: Fuller Seminary Prof. Glen Stassen's "Living the Sermon on the Mount."

As to Rushdoony, I think reconstructionism is unbiblical and foolish. It scares me more than a bit that you would mention him.

The intersection of law, faith and culture is one of my primary personal and career interests as a law professor. I agree with you whole-heartedly that policies and laws count. This is what I do for a living. That's why I'm so discouraged by the simplistic nature of your post.

If laws and policies count, we should examine issues deeply and carefully, rather than settling on a handful of slogan-worthy issues spoon fed to us by Dobson and Colson. I'm shocked, for example, that you would blow off Dan's concerns so blithely. Have you thought about the message that sends?

You're telling Dan to ignore the thousands of people near him who will suffer from that nuclear waste facility, and to ignore the moral corruption of his local GOP, in response to a few national issues that even a Democrat-controlled Congress won't be able to pass over the President's veto. How would that be a wise and ethical use of Dan's vote?

As to the war, I'm dismayed by your essentially utilitarian calculus. Are you a consequentialist? I'm not. I think the rule of love trumps utilities; and I think virtue is the foundation of ethics. Pulling out of Iraq tomorrow would be foolish, and almost no one advocates that. But continuing to prosecute this war as though it can be won is equally foolish, and immoral. I'm just disgusted that so many Christians are happy to have soldiers kill, burn and dismember, and to be killed, burned, an dismembered, in their name, without a compelling moral justification for war.

And we should be honest that Bush lied and continues to lie about the war. I'm sorry, but that's the fact. The faulty intelligence was thin and faulty from the beginning, and any reasonable observer should have known an invasion was not justified. The war was sold to us as though there was an imminent threat that Iraq would deply WMD when it should have been clear, even from the intelligence that was received, that no such threat was imminent. We were lied to also in the implication that the administration had prepared to carry out this operation. They were not prepared; they were clueless. Finally, we have been lied to continually, until this very day, about the state of the war. We are not winning; the war is not winnable; the prospect of anything like a stable democracy in Iraq is a sham.

Nancy, I appreciate your point about a clash of cultures, but I think you need to read a bit more deeply into the history of the region. One of the main problems is that we continue to deal with Iraq as though it ever was some sort of cohesive nation-state. It isn't. It's a collection of tribal factions that simply cannot today be knit into a stable democracy. Until we understand the nuances of Arab culture and of Islam, we can't presume that any efforts to stabilize the region will succeed. The neocon idea that democracy would arise from the ashes of a U.S. invasion was and is farcical.

On this note, let me suggest another excellent faith-culture-policy resource: the journal Faith and International Affairs, published by the Institute for Global Engagement. Read broadly, widely, and deeply, and don't let the evangelical sub-culture's equation of faith with the Republican party dissuade you from reaching thoughtful and nuanced conclusions.

nancy said...

Prof O - that is my point precisely. We must understand Islamic culture. They have loyalty first to tribe and then to arab/Islamic (warning - I just make a gross generalization) institution as a whole. The chopping up of the Middle East after WWI was a contributing factor to the irritation Muslims have with the West. Lewis documents this well. The current problem with Iraq began almost 100 years ago. Should Iraq be one country or 3 and who can make that call - not me. But.... your lambasting of the neo-cons does not make the case that going to Iraq was wrong. Read Lewis. He is very supportive of the notion that democracy in the Middle East can trive. I had one Muslim woman tell me that the governmental structure supported in the Koran would be more fair and democratic than what we have today (I have not investigated her claims).

The "Bush lied" mantra just rings hollow. One thing that we all forget in this saga is that Bush knows a lot more than what he can publically state. Do you really think he is a man of such shallow character that he would deliberately mislead us into a war? If that is the accusation, it needs a lot of proof to back it up.

BTW - Didn't the NYT just admit that Saddam (seems a few Iraqi's a bit excited over the trial) was a year a way from nuclear capability when we entered?

Please do not equate me with the evangelical sub-culture. I am not an evangelical. I do not get text messages from Dobson/Rove. I investigate issues as I have time and vote accordingly. (and I will look into the faith culture link you gave - would you be willing to read a little Lewis if you have not already done so?)

Prof. David Opderbeck said...

One thing that we all forget in this saga is that Bush knows a lot more than what he can publically state. Do you really think he is a man of such shallow character that he would deliberately mislead us into a war?

Nancy -- just as the "Bush lied" theme rings hollow to you, the "Bush knows more than he can tell us" them rings hollow to me. But I would accept one moderation of the "Bush lied" theme: "Bush" here should be broad enough to include Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc. -- in other words, "the Bush administration lied." Maybe Dubya himself was at times personally ill-served and misled by his advisors. I don't know.

I'd be happy to read the book you've mentioned -- what's the title? I read Albert Hourani's History of the Arab Peoples, which is a good resource, but apparently is contested in some ways.

I wouldn't deny that democracy is at all possible in the middle east, at least in some way in some places over some amount of time. What I would deny is that there ever was or is any possibility of catalyzing democracy in Iraq through a U.S. invasion. I'd suggest that the Iraq invasion has set the cause of middle east democracy back substantially.

William Bradford said...

And we should be honest that Bush lied and continues to lie about the war. I'm sorry, but that's the fact. The faulty intelligence was thin and faulty from the beginning, and any reasonable observer should have known an invasion was not justified. The war was sold to us as though there was an imminent threat that Iraq would deply WMD when it should have been clear, even from the intelligence that was received, that no such threat was imminent.

Nowhere in your analysis is there evidence of your charge- lying. Faulty intelligence- yes. It was also faulty in most other nations. One thing a study of politics reveals repeatedly is a blindsidedness to opposing views. That blindness manifests itself today in a lack of international will to do anything about WMDs in NK or the developing program in Iran. In these cases handsitters downplay real threats.

MJ said...

Prof David Opderbeck said:

"As to Rushdoony, I think reconstructionism is unbiblical and foolish. It scares me more than a bit that you would mention him."

Despite RJ Rushdoony's thesis, his writing demonstrates solid scholasticism. I find it academically flippant for you to dismiss his writing post hoc because you disagree with his paradigm. Whether we enjoy the fact or not, this "reconstructionism" was the dominant worldview brought by the Puritans and canonized in our law and legal development through the writings of Blackstone and Rutherford. Theonomy was imperfect then, and even dead now, but its vestiges remain in our understanding of American law. Without articulate persons as Rushdoony, our understanding of today's law and society debate would be incomplete.

My broader point is that we should refrain from poisoning the well of this debate and stick with the distinct points made by the author. No one likes being in Iraq...and our views about how/why we got their can be debated strongly on both sides. But the fact is that we are there, and a premature withdrawal would devestate the region.

How does this meet with Rushdoony? Bitter pills to swallow often deliver the realization of Truth.

Prof. David Opderbeck said...

William, you said: Nowhere in your analysis is there evidence of your charge- lying.

You are missing the point. At the outset, the intelligence, even taking it at face value, was greatly oversold. Further, our planning and capacity were greatly oversold. Finally, the ongoing progress is continually being greatly oversold and outright misrepresented. I call that sort of overselling and misrepresentation "lies." I think it's utterly naive to believe in the administration's good will and intentions here. IMHO, Christians should be horrified that their elected representatives are carrying out a devastating war under these circumstances.

I'm not sure about your reference to "handsitters" -- should we go ahead now and invade Iran and North Korea too?

MJ,you said "I find it academically flippant for you to dismiss his writing post hoc because you disagree with his paradigm."

I have no idea what "dismiss his writing post hoc" is supposed to mean. Was I supposed to dismiss it before he wrote it?

Rushdoony certainly was a smart and scholarly writer, but that obviously doesn't mean we should accept his ideas. Karl Marx was a smart and scholarly writer too, but I dismiss Marxism just as swiftly as reconstructionism.

Reconstructionism makes a number or critical theological mistakes. It confuses fully realized eschatology with the Church's current role in society before Christ's return. It provides a simplistic hermenuetic towards the nature and purpose of the OT law, particularly its penal and ceremonial provisions. It also ignores how Christ fulfilled the OT law and how the new covenant affects the OT law's application to individual believers, the Church, and the broader culture.

The implications of this are heinous, as it would suggest, for example, that we should invoke the death penalty (by stoning) for all sorts of moral problems, including such things as blasphemy (Lev. 24:16) and disrespect to a parent (Lev. 19:9).

You're a law student, MJ. Do you really think Christians should advocate a legal system in which the Church takes political power and enforces the Deuteronomic law?

William Bradford said...

You are missing the point. At the outset, the intelligence, even taking it at face value, was greatly oversold. Further, our planning and capacity were greatly oversold. Finally, the ongoing progress is continually being greatly oversold and outright misrepresented. I call that sort of overselling and misrepresentation "lies." I think it's utterly naive to believe in the administration's good will and intentions here. IMHO, Christians should be horrified that their elected representatives are carrying out a devastating war under these circumstances.

A lie entails deliberate deception. I can agree with you about the faulty intelligence without thinking there is enough evidence of intention to justify the lying charge. When you overstate your case and indulge in reading tea leaves to ascertain motives you risk alientating those who would concur with your more solidly argued points.

I'm not sure about your reference to "handsitters" -- should we go ahead now and invade Iran and North Korea too?

Something much stronger than talking is in order. These regimes are dangerous. Bush was critcized for going it alone on Iraq. Let's see if the critics are truley sincere or if they intend to risk posterity to the likes of hateful dictators armed with nukes.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Prof O:

For the record, I am not a reconstructionist; but I have learned much from Rushdoony's critique of liberalism. I don't believe he sets forth the full theonomic case in The Politics of Guilt and Pity. He does so in Institutes of Biblical Law. But again, I am not a Reconstructionist!

Tom Hinkle said...

Mr. Bradford,
If "something much stronger than talking is in order," what would that be? Sanctions? Declaring war? Because if it's the latter, sorry, our troops are already committed to a war that never should have been waged. So now when a REAL threat comes along with nukes, there's not a whole heck of a lot more we can do than talk right now, unless you want to reinstate the draft and make about 50 years old the cutoff point.

William Bradford said...

Mr. Bradford,
If "something much stronger than talking is in order," what would that be? Sanctions? Declaring war? Because if it's the latter, sorry, our troops are already committed to a war that never should have been waged. So now when a REAL threat comes along with nukes, there's not a whole heck of a lot more we can do than talk right now, unless you want to reinstate the draft and make about 50 years old the cutoff point.


Doing nothing is not an option. The one country with some pull vis a vis NK is China. One thing China would take seriously is reconsideration on the part of Japan of their own no nukes policy. The US should encourage the Japanese to do exactly that.

BTW, where is the world community? Is there no will to do anything about world problems outside the boundaries of the US and UK? Critics inside and outside the US had a field day criticizing the go it alone attitude. As you and others acknowledge, there exists a threat. Was the criticism mere carping or are there honest attempts to find solutions?

Russ said...

Mr. Groothuis ended his post with, "That is, do not vote for Democrats on November 7."

The election is over and the election results are clearly not what you had hoped for.

I have a few questions that are on many people's minds. No doubt, Mr. Groothuis was joined by tens of millions of people who prayed for the elections to come out the way Mr. Groothuis had hoped. These are sincere questions but to a person of strong faith, they will sound harsh, but they are not meant to be.

If nothing else perhaps, these questions can stimulate some interesting discussion in a philosophy class.

Why if your cause is righteous, did God not grant the outcome you wanted?

What does it mean that persons praying for the outcome that occurred had their prayers answers by the same God?

Does this mean that prayer doesn't work?

Does it mean that you do not understand God's will like you thought?

Are you simply making up what you would like God's will to be?

If God didn't make the election come out the way you wanted, is it God's will that the Democrats have control for a while?

Do the election results, despite all the prayers, mean that God wants stem cell research done?

The reference, "See Hugh Hewitt’s book, If It’s Not Close they Can’t Cheat on that" implies that you suspect that the election outcome might be rigged by unscrupulous people. How could ill-meaning humans overcome God's will? If it was God's will for Republicans to retain their seats, would it even be possible for a human to effect the outcome?

When you suggest that mere humans can alter anything against God's will, aren't you admitting your own lack of faith?

How do you justify to yourself that God allowed something to happen that you know is unrighteous and thus against his will?

What does it suggest about God that Bush has been doing what God tells him to and yet it didn't work very well?

With God, the legislature, the military, and the US Treasury at his disposal, why was it not the slam dunk they said it would be?

Why won't God, despite probably trillions of prayers by now, make the "insurgents" go away in Iraq?

Clearly, I'm not seeing the world the way you do, but I'd like to have your perspective.

Russ said...

said...

Douglas Groothuis said, "Sure, some Republicans are creeps. It's a fallen world. But nothing you said touches my fundamental arguments, which address the most important issues of our time. The Democrats are wrong on all of them. They cannot be trusted with power, especially in war-time--and they do not even know that it is war-time."

Douglas says that the Democrats are wrong on those issues and cannot be trusted with power, but apparently God does not see it that way. If the election had come out the way you wanted, it would surely be considered an act of God's will worthy of praise. Why is this outcome not hailed as an act of God's will just as worthy of reverence, awe and praise?

I'll never have my questions answered if I don't ask, and I figured someone here would know if anyone would. I'm seeking answers.

William Bradford said...

Douglas says that the Democrats are wrong on those issues and cannot be trusted with power, but apparently God does not see it that way.

That's a foolish presumption. God allows things he does not necessarily approve of, like for example, Hitler's strong showing in elections prior to being appointed chancellor.

If the election had come out the way you wanted, it would surely be considered an act of God's will worthy of praise.

You really do not understand Christianity. God is to be praised in all circumstances for he is able to work good out of all things even the the acts of ill-intentioned people.

Russ said...

Thank you, William.

I'm just curious.

You said, "That's a foolish presumption. God allows things he does not necessarily approve of, like for example, Hitler's strong showing in elections prior to being appointed chancellor." So, are you saying Hitler's rise was part of God's plan?

But, do you see my point? Douglas, said outright that Democrats cannot be trusted with power. Does this mean that Douglas knows the will of God? If not how can he suggest that he does? If he does not know the will of God in this instance, how does he know the will of God in any other instance? If he can't know the will of God, what is the purpose of asking for God's guidance?

William, you said "God is to be praised in all circumstances for he is able to work good out of all things even the the acts of ill-intentioned people." Will you and Douglas, then, thank God that the Democrats won big - it has to be part of his plan, right? If its not part of God's plan, how do you know that it's not? If this is not, how would you know what is part of God's plan?

I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm curious how people know these things, or how they think they know these things.

Thanks again, William.

William Bradford said...

I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm curious how people know these things, or how they think they know these things.

God's plans are knowable only to the extent that he would reveal them to us. That is also applicable to God's values. A less discussed aspect of Christianity relates to the concept of divine revelation. God's plans encompass allocation of free will to his creatures. This enables results not consistent with God's values.

Russ said...

William, In an earlier post you said I don't understand Christianity. You're right, that's why I'm asking.

Now, William, you said, "God's plans are knowable only to the extent that he would reveal them to us. That is also applicable to God's values. A less discussed aspect of Christianity relates to the concept of divine revelation. God's plans encompass allocation of free will to his creatures. This enables results not consistent with God's values."

For me, this raises lots of questions, but I'll try to be brief.

If God's plans are knowable only to the extent that he reveals them, but revealed knowledge is influenced by free will and free will can lead to results inconsistent with God's values, how does anyone ever know that they are doing God's will?

The question arises from the election results. This election has me greatly puzzled in that, according to my most deeply religious friends - some of whom are devout Christian clergymen - nothing happens which is not part of God's plan. If that is the case, then God willed the outcome of this election to be exactly as it is. Nothing is ever different than God has willed it. Is that true, William? Is everything part of God's plan? I don't know.

So, some were certain that God's will was "support only Republicans"; others were certain God's will was "support Independents," or "support Democrats including the Muslim in Minnesota." Everybody prayed to the same God for what they were certain was the desired outcome. So, despite the faithful sincerity of all those praying, and despite their certainty of God's will, the election outcome was God saying to millions of people: you had no idea what my will was.

I'm certain most of the respondents on this site supported Republican candidates. But the same would have been the case in 1994 when Republicans took it all. If the Republicans are more moral, more righteous, more knowledgeable of God's will why would non-Republicans have won so many votes? If the election reflects God's will, then are those who lost required to support the ones who won in order to acknowledge the acceptance of God's will?

If it's of interest to you, William, maybe you can wrestle with it. I'd be interested in how your take differs from my friends.

William Bradford said...

If God's plans are knowable only to the extent that he reveals them, but revealed knowledge is influenced by free will...

I did not say this. Revelation is not dependent on man's free will. It is a divine act.

Russ said...

William, you said, "I did not say this. Revelation is not dependent on man's free will. It is a divine act."

Could you clarify a bit?

The founders of many Christian denominations claim they base the new doctrines on divine revelation. But, there are more than 20000 distinct versions of Christianity around the world. Some are atheist(see www.harrytcook.com for an atheist Christian, Harry is an Episcopalian priest), some have had revelations that God sends people to Hell, some have had revelations that God does not send people to Hell. The list of conflicting revelations is quite long: Mary was divine, Mary was not divine; limbo exists, limbo does not exist; Genesis should be read literally, Genesis should not be read literally; etc. Mormonism, Calvinism, Catholicism are all claimed to be based on divine revelations but many of those revelations conflict, so the sects are quite different. So, different, in fact, that their Bibles are different. In this case does free will influence the revelation?

Let's say two theologians have divine revelations about the holy spirit. One has it revealed that the holy spirit must be believed to be part of God for salvation, whereas the other has it revealed that the holy spirit is not part of God, so not believing in the holy spirit won't exempt you from salvation. Disbelief in the holy spirit in the one case can land you in hell so it's clearly a critical issue. Whose revelation is true? If the revelations they receive are different, and that difference can imply quite distinct afterlifes - literally, heaven versus hell - who is right? In this case does free will influence the revelation?

Russ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nancy said...

Prof O,

Sorry I dropped off there. My work/home schedule got thrown off track after my 2.5 hour stint in a line to vote followed by my husband not getting home til after 10 p.m. on Tues because he was in line for over 3 hours.

Anyhow, I've read Bernard Lewis's "What Went Wrong" and "The Arabs in History." Both are very insightful. I also have in my possession, the more recent (2003) "The Crisis in Isalm" - happy reading.

I'm not sure how doing nothing in Iraq would put us in a better position. I look forward to chatting again on this issue. I'll make sure I do a bit of reading on this topic over the next few months.

Zac said...

I find it hilarious that Doug is adjuring us not to vote for Democrats that want to take our troops out of Iraq. Forget that the war is illegal and immoral. Forget that America has no authority to do what we did. We must stay the course and be republican party cheerleaders.

When will the evangelical movement understand that conservatism and the republican party are not synonymous with Christianity? (BTW, I'm not advocating that we support the democrats either).

Douglas Groothuis said...

Zac says: "I find it hilarious that Doug is adjuring us not to vote for Democrats that want to take our troops out of Iraq. Forget that the war is illegal and immoral. Forget that America has no authority to do what we did. We must stay the course and be republican party cheerleaders."

Gordon Clark (Z's hero) would not be proud of young Zac. None of his points address my argument about what would happen if we pull out of Iraq too quickly. What Zac says is beside the point. Moreover, he uses ad hominem by saying I'm a "cheerleader."

Douglas Groothuis said...

I have no idea what "statement" Russ is referring to. I sign one statement each year: the doctrinal statement of Denver Seminary, which I believe is true and rational. I deleted his next post since it was hysterical and abusive.

As Walter Martin used to say, "You can fight a skunk and win, but who wants to?"

Kevin Winters said...

But you never provided any argument showing that the Democrats would want "to pull out of Iraq now" or "too quickly." Your second "reason" is unfounded.

As for Russ' comment, I do find it a bit presumtuous that you claim your views to "come...through observation and reasoning," and hence should be right? Would you honestly claim that anyone looking at the evidence will come to the exact same conclusion as you wil?