Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Democracy Dilemma (Part 2)

In my last post, I considered the following scenario – if two candidates were running for President of the United States, and both of them supported abortion, what would you do?

The dilemma here is that we can: 1) vote for the least offensive candidate (assuming he/she has a more “agreeable” stance on the topic, like only supporting instances where the life of the mother is threatened) and still be a party to the murder of innocent children, or 2) don’t vote for either candidate, and leave the election to others. My point in the previous post is that there is no call in the Bible for Christians to be politically active in all instances – Jesus seems to be rather ambivalent about politics altogether (Matthew 22:15-22). The failure to cast a vote for either candidate still leaves the issue in the capable hands of God alone. Do we trust that He has a bigger plan?

This very scenario confronts us in our gubernatorial race in Colorado this November. Democrat John Hickenlooper will face the Republican candidate, Dan Maes, in the election. I’ve seen Dan Maes speak at the Christian Family Conference in Denver this summer – he seemed like a standup guy, supportive of so many of the sides of issues that I favor, like homeschooling and smaller government.

Most importantly, Dan Maes is pro-life. While politics covers many issues, I am most insistent on two topics alone – 1) a firm stand against all forms of abortion and a commitment to overturn Roe v. Wade, and 2) a clear statement that the candidate will not support any legislation that legitimizes homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. Any candidate who doesn’t support these two points should not bother to seek my vote. They will never get my support, under any circumstances.

But the state gubernatorial race, like the Presidential race, does not contain just one name in each spot on the ballot – there are two. One is for governor and one is for lieutenant governor. And Dan Maes has chosen his lieutenant governor to be Tambor Williams – a clear, pro-choice candidate. Williams does not support the Colorado Personhood Amendment, she has urged former state governors to send funds to Planned Parenthood, and she has voted to oppose a ban on partial-birth abortions (for more on Williams, visit this Colorado Right-to-Life page).

Is Dan Maes committed to a pro-life stance? Consider his words, spoken recently to a pro-abortion outlet:

“People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That’s it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don’t know... Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and people tend to forget that. I would not try to undo that.”
And then, shortly after making this statement, he claimed that he misspoke and “took it back”. I have to ask – how can you misspeak by so great a margin? Could it be that Dan Maes, like so many other politicians, is simply saying whatever he must in order to get elected? In a recent newspaper article, other “conservatives” make it clear that the end justifies the means, when they say that Republicans may have to make compromises if they want to win back the governor’s office.

As a Christian, I am not in a position to make compromises where God’s Word is concerned. And God’s word is clear on the topic of the sanctity of life – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13,16). If Dan Maes does not have the moral character, nor the tenacity to name a pro-life running mate, then he does not get my vote. It appears that Colorado Right-to-Life is withdrawing their earlier support of Maes. In their words, “the only justifiable abortion policy is zero tolerance for child killing.” I agree.

And this brings me back to my earlier point – I believe there are times when we are called upon to vote, and there are times when we are not. Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil. In November, when I reach the gubernatorial part of the ballot, I will leave it blank – and I will, instead, take a moment to pray – and trust that God is bigger than anything I can do with my elective right. Does God need my vote to make things happen? No. Prayer, and God's leading, will trump mere politics. Isn’t that the very definition of faith?

A time of prayer, instead of political involvement? Think about it – what would Jesus have done?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Democracy Dilemma (Part 1)

The world of politics grows steadily more frustrating to me. Increasingly, it seems to be a circus, not a legitimate authority. With headlines ranging from Rod Blagojevich’s hung jury to the finger-pointing about the Ground-Zero mosque, I have to ask - is there a good politician left out there? Is there a politician that actually cares to govern for the right reasons, apart from the constant desire to posture and accuse in order to get re-elected? So, I recently pondered these questions: As a Christian, am I under obligation to support and vote for the least offensive candidate, in order to do my part to “turn the tide”? Do I have to be politically active with my vote in every circumstance?

Put another way, if we are told to choose between the lesser of two evils, should we choose at all?

My strong answer to this is “No”, and I’ll tell you why. The argument is often made that Christians cannot withdraw from their political duty – voting – unless they are willing to abandon our nation to the worst possible leaders. Common sense says that if Candidate “A” is more godly than Candidate “B”, then a vote for the lesser of two evils – for Candidate “A” – at least tempers the outcome in favor of Christian principles. Failing to vote at all removes one vote from the “good” candidate and swings one more vote in favor of the “bad” candidate. More often than not, this results in Christians simply voting straight Republican on the ticket, sometimes for candidates of which we have absolutely no knowledge. I know, because I’ve done this very thing in past elections.

But I believe there is a third alternative – leave it to God.

This choice may seem uninvolved and escapist. But I ask – does God really need my vote to see His will done? Obviously, he does not. Romans 13:1b says, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” This verse specifically refers to our political and governmental leaders – this chapter even tells us to pay our taxes. So, if I believe that God is ultimately in charge, then I also believe that He is in control of the elections and leaders in our nation. One could make the argument, “Doesn’t God then use my vote for the lesser of two evils to do His will?” Perhaps, but can’t a similar argument be made that God is in control, even if I choose to abstain from voting for a candidate? The verse tells us that it is God who puts authorities in place – not my vote.

I believe that we need to trust in God – not in democracy. Does that seem un-American? Perhaps it does. But is such a view un-Christian? I don’t think so. Do we have faith in democracy and God...or in God alone? And think on this – isn’t a vote for the lesser of two evils still a vote for evil?

Here is a true dilemma – if two candidates were running for President of the United States, and both of them supported abortion, what would you do? See my answer in the next installment – using a real-life, current example in our upcoming Colorado election.

To Part 2 of The Democracy Dilemma

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting a Constitutional Education – Questions for Student Discussion (Part 12)

It’s important that we educate our children on the topics of politics, government, and the Constitution which governs our nation. This nine-part series reminds us of some basic principles, lest they be forgotten by the next generation. The following questions provide material for homeschool and public school teachers to share, discuss, and test their students on each of the nine topics. The link to each article is included, or you may start through the series beginning at Constitutional Education – Free Homeschool Curriculum (a nine-part series, originally published in January/February 2009). The discussion questions are divided up into three installments, beginning here.


7. Banking and The Federal Reserve Act (Part 7)

· What is the difference between a Silver Certificate and a Federal Reserve Note? [A Silver Certificate was backed by real silver, and could actually be exchanged for the amount in silver at the treasury. A Federal Reserve Note is not backed by precious metal or anything of value, but is only worth the face amount because the government says so.]

· What was the purpose for the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913? Did it work? [The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 with the purpose of being able to expand or contract the money supply if the government decided it was needed. They feared that people might place a demand for their money or that the stock market was too volatile without this “control”. Unfortunately, it did not work, because the stock market crashed in an historic manner just sixteen years later. The economy continues to fluctuate as much or more than it did before the Federal Reserve was created.]

· What economic occurrence happened after the Federal Reserve was created, one that had not happened before? Explain what this occurrence does to prices. [Inflation occurred after the creation of the Federal Reserve. Prior to this, the prices of goods remained essentially the same for over a hundred years. When the Reserve was given the power to print money, the supply of money goes up and the value of each dollar goes down. This causes prices to rise. This continues to happen today.]

· Extra – Go to your library and check out an 1897 Sears catalog or an 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog (these are readily available at most libraries) or locate other old catalogs from department stores. Compare the prices of similar items from back then to prices today. Calculate the percentage rise in prices for different items. Do you observe the effect of inflation?

· Extra – Do you believe the economy would be better served with more or less government intervention? Do you think a return to the gold or silver standard would be beneficial or harmful?

8. (Mis)interpreting the General Welfare Clause (Part 8)

· Where does the General Welfare clause appear in the Constitution? [It appears twice – once in the Preamble and once in Article 1, Section 8.]

· Does the Constitution explicitly give the federal government the ability to collect taxes and distribute them to states for road construction projects? [No, the Constitution is fairly silent about what the government may spend money on. From a previous lesson, we see that they are directed to fund the military for the protection of our nation, but there is little else that is named specifically in the Constitution that the government may fund.]
· In today’s federal government, is there very much debate about whether or not the government should be involved in a spending program? [We still see some debate in a couple of areas – most notably in the areas of gun laws or abortion. People feel passionately about these topics and so they still make arguments about whether or not the government should be involved. But by and large, most people now raise no questions about whether or not the government should be involved in spending for road construction, healthcare, etc. It’s become a foregone conclusion. However, in the era of the founding fathers, there would have been much debate over these issues and whether the government should participate.]

· Extra – How do you feel about the topic of government spending on various programs? Consult today’s news media and make a list of programs where you see the government spending tax money. Are these areas listed in the Constitution or the Amendments?

· Extra – In your opinion, did most founding fathers intend for the amount of government spending and involvement that we have today? You might look up some quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Patrick Henry.

9. The Birth of Judicial Activism (Part 9)

· When Marbury brought his case before the Supreme Court, what exactly was the purpose of his case? [It was simply to get Hamilton to sign his commission, so that he could take on the role of a federal judge. Marbury cited the Judicial Act of 1789 as the basis for his lawsuit.]

· What was the unprecedented (and some would say shocking) thing that the Supreme Court did regarding Marbury’s case? [They referred the case back to a lower court, but at the same time declared that the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional. This was never before done – that is, the Supreme Court had never before declared something to be unconstitutional (nor had they been asked to rule on the constitutionality of something). The shocking part was that the Court decided on its own that it had the authority to make this judgment.]

· State the difference between judicial activism and judicial restraint. [Judicial activists believe that there are implied powers in the Constitution and that the document is up for changing evaluation and interpretation as the times change. This results in the government expanding its powers over more and more topics as time goes on. Those who believe in judicial restraint believe that the Constitution is very explicit about areas where the government should be involved. They believe that where the Constitution is silent about a topic, the government likely has no authority.]

· What fictitious human right did the Supreme Court refer to in the Roe vs. Wade case? [The right to privacy was the basis of their argument. While most people may agree that privacy is a good thing, there is no mention of a right to privacy in the Constitution. The word does not even appear in the Constitution.]

· Extra – What is your opinion on judicial activism versus judicial restraint? Do you believe in one over the other? Give your reasons.

· Extra – Do some research on Justice John Marshall. How do you think he was viewed by judicial restraint advocates such as Thomas Jefferson?

Back to the beginning of the Constitutional Education series....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Getting a Constitutional Education – Questions for Student Discussion (Part 11)

It’s important that we educate our children on the topics of politics, government, and the Constitution which governs our nation. This nine-part series reminds us of some basic principles, lest they be forgotten by the next generation. The following questions provide material for homeschool and public school teachers to share, discuss, and test their students on each of the nine topics. The link to each article is included, or you may start through the series beginning at Constitutional Education – Free Homeschool Curriculum (a nine-part series, originally published in January/February 2009). The discussion questions are divided up into three installments, beginning here.


4. Origin and Curse of the Federal Income Tax (Part 4)

· Name two events in American history which established a federal income tax. [The first, started during Abraham Lincoln’s administration to pay for the Civil War debt lasted from 1862 to 1872. The second came with the establishment of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1916.]

· Describe why the model where the federal government collects taxes and then gives money back to the states is a potential problem? [The federal government is not required to give the money back in any kind of proportion to the number of people in the states. Therefore, the federal government could potentially give money disproportionately, and almost certainly will. Money earned in one state and taxed may not come back to benefit that state or its taxpayers.]

· Write out the words of the Sixteenth Amendment. While it is very short, what problems can you see in the sentence? [“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” First, “from whatever source derived”” means they can potentially collect taxes on any money transfer. Today, taxes are generally not collected on Internet purchases, but there is nothing to prevent the government from invoking such a tax. “Without apportionment” and “enumeration” means once again that tax benefits can be unequally distributed to people, regardless of who earned it. One could argue that this is very close to the definition of socialism.]

· Extra – Describe how a system of federal taxation can shift the balance of power away from states and toward the federal government. In your opinion, has that happened? Why or why not?

· Extra – Look up the definitions of socialism, collectivism, communism, and capitalism. In your opinion, which one most closely aligns with the idea of federal taxation and re-distribution?

5. Secession and Nullification (Part 5)

· How many states seceded from the Union during the time of the Civil War? Which was the first state to secede? Was your state one of the ones that seceded? [Thirteen states ultimately seceded from the United States, with South Carolina being the first in December of 1860. Tennessee was the last to secede in June, 1861. States seceded over perceived violations of the United States Constitution by the Lincoln administration. The list of States who seceded from the Union include South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee]

· Did the people in the Northern states want to prevent the seceding states from leaving the Union and bring them back into the Union forcefully? [According to Horace Greeley, nine out of ten people in the Northern states agreed that the states’ right to secede from the Union was more important than preserving the Union as a whole. It appears that most people understood well the right of states to secede and they supported it.]

· Summarize the “power pyramid” between individuals, states, and the federal government. How did the founders view this pyramid? How do you think it looks today? [The founders believed in individual rights above all else – this was made clear in their writings and in the Declaration of Independence itself. Next were states’ rights, as is also clearly demonstrated in their writings. The federal government was originally designed to be the weakest of the three. In today’s United States, these roles appear to be reversed. From Part 4 of this series, the Sixteenth Amendment probably had a lot to do with this reversal.]

· Extra – Write an essay weighing the good and bad of Lincoln’s decision to enter into the Civil War. Consider both sides - the abolishment of slavery vs. the abridgement of a state’s right to secede.

· Extra – look up the “South Carolina Declaration of The Causes of Secession”. Outline the state’s reasons for deciding to leave the Union.

6. Enumerated Powers vs. Implied Powers (Part 6)

· Define the concept of express (or enumerated) powers. [A person who believes in enumerated powers allows that only what is listed specifically in the Constitution is applicable to government. This is in line with Thomas Jefferson’s thinking – that government only has the authority to do exactly what is listed in the Constitution – nothing else.]

· Define the concept of implied powers. [A person believing in implied Constitutional powers would hold that government authority can go beyond the specific enumerated powers listed in the Constitution. It becomes difficult to define these powers because “implied” can cover a broad range of thinking. It seems that this has happened – consider, does the federal government have the rightful Constitutional authority to mandate healthcare insurance? We are already seeing Constitutional challenges to this recent law.]

· Did the founding fathers believe that the original Constitution would be completely sufficient for the future? Why or why not? [The founders included Article 5 in the Constitution, which allows for an Amendment to the Constitution to be made. Since they did this, it seems evident that they believed the Constitution was not made to be unchanged forever.]

· Extra – What do you think would happen in Congress if Congressman Shadegg’s “Enumerated Powers Act” became law? Would there be changes in daily Congressional business?

· Extra – Form an opinion and write down your reasons for supporting enumerated powers or implied powers.

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Back to the beginning of the Constitutional Education series....