Thursday, December 04, 2008

Truth Trumps Nice

Revised here:  http://elenburg.blogspot.com/2015/04/truth-trumps-tolerance.html.  Kept here for historical purposes as this blog is an ongoing journal of my personal quest in discovering truth.

In our post-modern culture of moral relativism, we've elevated the doctrine of tolerance above all others and redefined the unforgivable sin as being the "sin" of intolerance. I know I've committed this new unforgivable "sin" when someone accuses me of "shoving my morality down their throat" or when I'm labeled a "bible thumper" or a "legalist" or a "fundamentalist." These are clues that the other person (who is generally advocating tolerance) has become intolerant of my viewpoint or religion. This is thick with irony because it proves the doctrine of tolerance is itself intolerant of other viewpoints. It is at best a logical conundrum and at worst hypocrisy.

Personally, I don't care if someone calls me any of those intolerant names or hangs a label on me as long as I am not being a hypocrite. My highest value in life is truth, and I abhor being a hypocrite. If I'm shown to be a hypocrite, I hope I have the humility to repent. Jesus had harsh words for hypocrites. Jesus was also intolerant of violations of God's Truth. He called people to repentance so they could be forgiven for their sin and receive grace.

Tolerance is good to a point, but the doctrine of tolerance becomes problematic when it is elevated above the doctrine of Truth. Jesus made an extremely exclusivist statement when he said, "I am the way and the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (emphasis mine) If you are a professing Christian, you are under the obligation to submit yourself to the Truth, otherwise your profession of faith is meaningless. Jesus elevates Truth (himself) over tolerance, and all real Christians should do as Jesus did.

In our world of post-modern political correctness, the doctrine of tolerance is exemplified in the avoidance of civil confrontation and rational dialog on issues of substance. People believe it is "not nice" to discuss sex, politics, or religion in polite company. Why? Probably because you might have a disagreement that highlights the hypocritical doctrine of tolerance, and that's not "nice." In the event of a disagreement, parties in conflict often choose to "agree to disagree" rather than seeking unity in the Truth. They mistakenly believe this is the nice way to behave. It is not.  It is dishonest.

Nice is often a euphemism for tolerance. Christians think they are supposed to be nice, and they even justify their hypocrisy by it. That is wrong and unbiblical. Christians need to stop being hypocrites (especially me!) and stop elevating nice (i.e. tolerance) over truth. God is not "nice" and neither was Jesus, the Apostles, or the Prophets. They all preferred telling the truth about wrongdoing, even (or maybe especially) when it hurt. Read your Bible if you don't believe me. It is the truth. We need more Christians who can think critically and rationally and politely articulate those beliefs even if they don't sound "nice" to the ears in our politically correct culture of tolerance. This will help the rest of the church grow in grace and unity in the Truth.

Tolerance is a virtue to a point, but not beyond the point of Truth. Truth trumps tolerance, and sometimes there is no way to be nice about it. Some people are wrong, evil, and immoral. They make sinful choices and need to repent. If we are merely nice to these people and afraid to tell them the truth, they will never find the forgiveness offered by Truth himself, Jesus Christ. Telling the truth is the only loving way for Christians to behave, and sometimes this tough love is not very nice.

Credits: My observations and many of the ideas contained in this blog entry were developed through extensive email discussions with my friend Dr. Tom Pittman. For more information along these lines, check out his evolving online book: God of Truth: Reforming the Feminized American Church

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Freedom of Choice

My freedom to swing my arm ends before my fist hits your nose. Why? Civilized people regard unprovoked violence as immoral. So, we enact laws to protect innocent people from assault. The government is God's agent for restraining evil in the world, and civil governments do this through legislation. The conventional wisdom that "you cannot legislate morality" is flat wrong. Laws are indeed moral statements. We have laws against rape, murder, theft, etc. because those are immoral acts that should be restrained.

Human life begins when the fusion of egg and sperm produces a new, complete, living organism — an embryonic human being. The fact that life begins at conception is not a matter of opinion or religious expression. It is a biological fact. The scientific evidence is too overwhelming for there to be any debate on this point. The abortion debate is really about whether we ought to respect and defend human beings in the earliest stages of their lives. In other words, the question is not about scientific facts; it is about the nature of human dignity and the equality of human beings.

Abortion is a massive injustice which systematically destroys the most innocent and helpless members of the human race. Unborn human beings are fully qualified to be recognized as persons under the law and should therefore be protected from any assault that might befall them. A woman's right to choose ends when a sperm fuses with her egg. Why? Civilized people regard unprovoked violence as immoral, and abortion is an assault on a defenseless human being's life.

Protecting people who are weak and defenseless is a moral obligation of any civilized, democratic, and moral government. This is why the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is a reprehensible and despicable piece of legislation. It removes all protection for the defenseless people who have not yet crossed the birth canal and disguises this under the banner of "Freedom." It is not freedom, and it is not about choice. The FOCA is an effort to codify into federal law the undemocratic and immoral act of abortion on demand. President Elect Barak Obama has promised to sign this heinous legislation as his first official act as president. God help us!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Truth about Change (and Bailouts)

I hope the "CHANGE" Obama talks about means that we will CHANGE our foolish and UNconstitutional policies of bailing out the private sector and stop the inexorable slide to socialism. That would be CHANGE that I could support. Unfortunately, the pattern I've seen is that Democrats pass legislation that get the opposite results of what they intend because FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOESN'T WORK as an agent of (good) change. Republicans (at least in election years) agree to bail out these foolish programs. Utter nonsense. We know better. History proves it. We're doomed to repeat it if we don't learn from it.

WE THE PEOPLE are the agents of change, and the Obama folks should realize their success was in the GRASS ROOTS efforts at the LOCAL level. Federal Government isn't the solution. Local volunteers doing good at the local level is a good solution. That's what got Obama elected. What frightens me is now that Democrats are the ruling party, they will forget what made the Obama campaign the most effective presidential election bid in American history.

In this article from the April 24, 2008, Wall Street Journal we read about Republicrat collusion in bailing out the student loan fiasco. This was several months before the heinous and UNconstitutional bailout of Wall Street. When will the lunacy end?

Bailout of the Year

Guess who's asking Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a bailout now? Hint: They are members of an exclusive club who bet wrong on the credit markets last fall. No, it's not a cabal of Wall Streeters, but Democrats in Congress.

We're referring to the "student loan crisis" now appearing in a media outlet near you. In September, Congress vowed to make education more affordable by passing the "College Cost Reduction and Access Act." The law reduced the interest rates borrowers pay on federally insured student loans. Backed by the Federal Family Education Loan Program, these loans account for more than 70% of education lending. Taxpayers will fork over $7 billion by 2012 to pay for the rate cuts.

But Congress didn't stop there. Convinced that the private lenders who make these loans were reaping too much profit, Congress also cut the yield on each loan. The return on the popular Stafford loan for undergrads was reduced by 70 basis points. For loan consolidations, Congress cut returns by 65 basis points. In a vibrant market, banks might have absorbed these hits and continued to lend. But the combination of legislative fiat and fewer investors willing to buy asset-backed securities amid the credit crunch has put the squeeze on lenders.

What's now clear is that Congress didn't merely wring the profits out of student lending. It's blown up the entire student loan market. Market leader Sallie Mae says it now loses money on every new federal education loan. Sallie continues to lend in hopes of a change in D.C., or increased investor demand for securitized loans. Others can't wait. A third of the nation's top 100 lenders to students in 2007 have temporarily suspended new loan originations or exited the business altogether. Citibank subsidiary Student Loan Corporation cited "unprecedented federal legislation" in announcing its recent withdrawal from much of the market.

Usually, the law of unintended consequences takes so long to reveal itself that no one remembers the culprits. But the speed at which Congress's student lending changes have gone south is raising political danger for Democrats, if Republicans had the wit to point it out. (They don't; that's why they're Republicans.)

Democrats would thus like to clean up the mess they created before May, when a flood of college-bound seniors will seek loans. But the pols can hardly repeal their autumn blunder mere moments after taking credit for it. No doubt many of them are still sending out taxpayer-financed mail bragging of their "achievement."

The result is that the same man who authored last year's bill to cut lenders' returns has crafted a new bill to subsidize those same lenders. Last week the House passed Education and Labor Chairman George Miller's latest foray into collegiate finance. The bill gives the Department of Education new authority to purchase loans directly from lenders.

To summarize: Congress mandated a return on student loans that is too low to attract private capital in the current market. So Congress will now use your money to create artificial investor demand. Taxpayers will bear more risk so that Congress can fashion a new business model to replace the one it just destroyed. The Bush Administration, unwisely but typically, has endorsed this approach.

Oh, there's more. Mr. Miller's allies in the Senate understand that legislation moves more slowly on their side of the Capitol. There may be too little time before the angry phone calls from parents target the 202 area code. So the same Senators who gave us the autumn accident have begun a letter-writing campaign to request that bailout we mentioned earlier.

Daniel Akaka, Bob Casey, Tom Carper, Chris Dodd, Tim Johnson, Bob Menendez and Jon Tester are desperately seeking a bureaucrat with a large checkbook to rescue them from their self-made political disaster. Last Thursday they wrote Mr. Bernanke asking him to accept student loans as collateral under the Fed's new Term Securities Lending Facility. They sent a similar letter to Treasury Secretary Paulson asking him to order the Federal Financing Bank to buy student-loan-backed securities.

So having raised solemn alarms when the Fed began to accept dodgy mortgage-backed securities as collateral, the Senators are now demanding that the Fed accept dodgy student-loan paper too. The Senators helpfully note in their letter that a virtue of their proposals is that they can be implemented quickly. Indeed, November is just around the corner.

Needless to say, none of this legislative history is appearing in the multiple media sob stories about students who can't get loans. But like airline passengers stranded this month due to panicky inspections, the current student loan "crisis" didn't have to happen. It is entirely a product of Congress.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sin is Additive, not Multiplicative

When you add two negative numbers, the result is always another negative number. Sin is the same way. My mom taught me this when I was a little boy with the aphorism, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I couldn't do math at the time, but I learned this principle at an early age. As I grew up and became a Christian I discovered the truth of this saying. Sin is additive. So is good.

I continue to be astonished by how many Christians buy into the idea that the lesser-of-two-evils can somehow overcome the greater evil. Apparently these Christians are unfamiliar with their Bibles where in Romans 12 the truth is clearly stated.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It seems that Christians today have a mistaken notion that sin is multiplicative. By the magic of moral relativism or "situational ethics" they desperately cling to the mistaken idea that multiplying a little evil with greater evil will somehow overcome all evil. It simply won't work, but they keep trying. Alan Keyes eloquently explains how this results in Christian voters denying their faith. The result of multiplying even a little evil with other evil is much greater evil. That's how sin works. Stop it! Avoid all evil, even the lesser-of-two-evils, particularly when you vote. Do the math!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obedience unto Relationship

Howard Hendricks, speaking in terms of spiritual knowledge, says the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but obedience. His point, I think, is that God wants to move us from ignorance, to knowledge, to obedience which hopefully leads to salvation along the way. There are dangers if we try to take short cuts around knowledge or worse yet stop short of applying the truth we possess by never actually living it out in our daily lives.

The short cut from ignorance directly to obedience by skipping knowledge is risky because you really don't know if your behavior is true obedience if you have no actual knowledge of the truth. However, this isn't nearly as problematic or as common as people who get stuck on knowledge without application. With a few rare exceptions, most modern Christians have far more knowledge of the truth than we have application of the truth. That's why the world views the church as being full of hypocrites.

James tells us that knowledge without application is like a man who looks in a mirror then goes away and forgets what he looks like. Self-knowledge is lost when theoretical knowledge is not applied. Spiritual ignorance that blossoms into spiritual knowledge without the requisite obedience results in hypocrisy and spiritual pride. The Apostle Paul addressed this problem when he wrote "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." Apparently, the antidote to puffy knowledge is love. But what is love?

Love in the biblical sense has very little to do with romance, sex, or feelings. Love is a decision to submit my own desires to the needs of another. Love in its purest form is submission. What does this have to do with obedience and relationship? By submitting our lives in obedience to the Truth, we discover who God is and who we are and how we can be rightly related to the Creator of the Universe. This is where true happiness is found.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ultimate Truth Fighting

My 12 year old son is about to earn his black belt in Taekwondo. I'm quite proud of him, and lately we've become fans of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting, particularly the UFC octagon. For the uninitiated, UFC MMA fighting has exploded onto the sports scene as the most popular form of professional prize fighting. It is the ultimate display of unarmed man-to-man combat.

There is no such thing as throwing in the white towel during a UFC competition, and pretty much anything goes. Kickboxing, wrestling moves of all kinds, knees & elbows, and submission holds are all fair game. There are essentially two ways to win the fight while in the ring: knock out or tap out. If neither fighter has knocked out or submitted (tapped out) his opponent by the end of the fight, it goes to the judges for a decision.

Ultimate fighting is exciting but brutal. Good manners are not rewarded. Pummeling your opponent into the ground is the name of the game. I've started to wonder if my enthusiasm for ultimate fighting might be a vicarious representation of how I engage in spiritual warfare. Even more disturbing has been my discovery that I may have misidentified my opponent in the spiritual ultimate truth fighting octagon.

I'm designed by God as someone who is highly motivated by truth, and I have a burning desire to exhort others toward truth. Truth be told, other people are not the opponent. The enemy is the Father of Lies, and too often I misidentify the POWs in his prison camp as my opponent. These POWS need to be saved, not savagely attacked. They need liberation not libel. I'm too easily frustrated with how comfortable many POWs have become in their prision of lies. Sadly, I'm much too slow to apologize or even recognize when my zeal for apologetics offends or overwhelms a POW in the camp of lies.

Recently, I have been putting a choke hold on one of my best friends who is about ready to tap out. I've been blind to the truth myself in that my all out war against untruth was directed at him instead of our common Enemy. I've been meditating on the fruit of the spirit in order to redirect my battle. This has led me to a change of heart. In Ultimate Truth Fighting, the path to power and victory comes from ones own submission to Truth.

I pray God will give me the wisdom and skill to refocus my zeal on the real opponent so I can take the war to the proper battle front and fight the right opponent. The white towel of victory is nonsensical in worldly Ultimate Fighting, but in Ultimate Truth Fighting power is found through grace, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and even gentleness. I need to stop using so many knees and elbows on the spectators and POWs and save the submission moves for the real enemy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More On Abortion...

In a recent Facebook dialog on abortion, Jenn Koontz wrote:

> Of course you didn't address my facts about other countries with
> comprehensive public sex education and multiple contraceptive
> choices having lower abortion rates, and why would you? The facts
> speak for themselves.

This is an interesting data point because the pro-life people report the opposite effect. Of course their stats are for different states of the USA, and different school districts in the same state. I don't trust *ANY* stats when we see widely divergent reports. The first order of business is to agree on the quality of the data, but Jenn didn't have the patience to get to that part of the dialog and begged out of the discussion.

In this case it might be that the other countries Jenn reports on also have a much lower culture of sex-outside-marriage than the USA. So, their abortion rate could be lower for different reasons than her stats suggest. That's why the different states in the USA, and especially different school districts in the same state are better, because the TV-driven sex culture is much more likely to be the same.

Pro-life people consistently report that unwanted pregnancy rates are directly proportional to non-abstinence sex education in schools -- both here and in Africa. I sponsor a World Vision child in the AIDS torn area of Uganda, so I'm a little bit familiar with AIDS and sex issues in Uganda. Uganda has been one of the only countries reporting reduced AIDS and also the only country teaching ABC = Abstinance Before Condoms. Jenn needs to address that data somehow.

Finally, people with Pro-Choice political views need to wake up and smell the coffee. The Pro-Choice agenda is driven by Pro-Abortion people who are effectively racist. Abortions are heavily targeted to Black communities, with the result that black abortion rates are (I think, check this fact) some 3 times higher per capita than white.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood explicitly intended to use it to eliminate racial minorities, and their policies even today show that intent is being carried out. And it's working! Hispanics, whose Catholic dogma forbids abortion, now outnumber people of African descent in the USA.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Age of the Earth - does it matter?

In the 17th century, Anglican Archbishop James Ussher developed a chronological history of the world based on a literal reading of the Bible. He concluded human history began around 4,000 B.C. and is often credited as being the father of Young Earth Creationism. It turns out Ussher was neither the first or last to come up with these estimates for the age of the Earth.

The Venerable Bede, who died in the year 735 A.D., made similar estimates a millennium earlier. Highly respected scientists like Kepler and Newton developed chronologies not too unlike Ussher's. This age of the Earth time frame was conventional wisdom for many of the best minds on our planet for more than a millennium. Prior to Darwin, men of science didn't need "billions of years" for evolution to take place, nor did these great minds in the "age of reason" (i.e. The Enlightenment of the 18th century) see conflict between scientific exploration and Biblical revelation. Even Galileo Galilei's famous conflict with the Roman Catholic church centuries earlier was about church dogma in Biblical interpretation not Biblical authority itself.

Today, many Christians believe the Earth is vastly older than 6,000 solar years, and the Darwinist viewpoint requires "billions of years." And science is considered more authoritative than the Bible in our increasingly religiously pluralistic, post-modern, and post-Christian culture. Most scientists (not all) believe the universe is around 14 billion years old, and modern scientific dogma dates the Earth at about 4.5 billion years. Still, one must keep in mind that science changes her mind frequently. After all, that is how science works. It is a process of continuous discovery and refinement of knowledge based on empirical evidence and experiment. Or, at least it should be. Unfortunately, science has become as dogmatic about its unproven assumptions as the Roman Catholic church was when it excommunicated Galileo.

The Genesis account of creation talks about a beginning. But, since Darwinism requires "billions of years" late 19th and early 20th century science favored an eternal or steady-state theory of the universe, a universe with no beginning. So, Genesis was out of step with science. Then everything changed. In the mid 20th century, the highly touted Big Bang Theory flip-flopped scientific dogma in favor of a universe with a beginning. Today, we see science back in line with the Bible on the question of whether or not the universe had a beginning. This has happened in my lifetime.

Studying the complementary nature of Divine and natural revelation in pursuit of truth is a worthy objective, but unfortunately we moderns tend to bifurcate our truth seeking. It doesn't have to be this way. Archeology has some great examples of how science and the Bible can work together in the pursuit of truth. The Bible has been proven accurate time and time again by archeological discoveries. Lack of evidence for the ancient Hittites led some people to question the accuracy of the Bible. Then, in the early 1900s, archeological discoveries proving the existence of the ancient Hittites once again vindicated the Bible. Other naysayers claimed the Bible's accuracy deteriorated as the text was transmitted over the ages via hand written copies, but the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid 1900s proved the transmission of the Biblical text was substantially more accurate than the naysayers claimed.

Science is the empirical discovery of the natural world. The Bible is divine revelation of truth. Both are legitimate means of discovering reality. Isaac Newton clearly understood this. He was a devout Christian and accomplished theologian who was literally obsessed with unlocking the connection between the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelation. Many of his early life scientific accomplishments, particularly in astronomy, were put to use in his extensive and rarely acknowledged theological studies. Newton is considered one of the greatest if not *the* greatest scientific mind in all of human history.

Newton apparently didn't have a problem including both natural sciences and biblical revelation in his worldview. He was a product of the end of the Renaissance, and he personally set the stage for the age of Enlightenment. Since his time, science has become much more fractured and specialized as the pace of technology and discovery accelerates. Few moderns have even a fraction of the breadth of knowledge of Newton, and I'd suggest most of us have very fragmented and often incoherent worldviews. We live in the information age where it is impossible to know it all. If a fragmented understanding of reality is the best we can do with a worldview based purely on science and technology, then cognitive dissonance is sure to follow.

In college back in the late '80s, I wrote a paper on recent discoveries about the mass of the neutrino. While doing research for this term paper, I realized how many untestable assumptions go into scientific theories. In the popular scientific press, layperson explanations often appear straight forward and absolute, but my research for this neutrino paper led me to question these layperson explanations, particularly when it came to the age of the universe. I saw what amounted to a patch work of untestable assumptions like the elusive "dark matter" that ensures the equations work out as needed.  But even the dark matter wasn't enough, and since that time the best theories are now postulating the existence of "dark energy."  Science is continuously changing her mind about how to describe reality.

The deeper I dug, the more disturbing it became. Nobody ever seemed to have definitive knowledge within their own chosen field of scientific study that absolutely proved the age of the earth or confirmed Darwinian evolution. PhDs are well aware of the lack of proof and hard evidence within their own disciplines, yet they have abounding, even admirable faith some other scientific discipline had the "missing links." This results in what amounts to a giant finger pointing game when it comes to definitive evidence for Darwinism.

The Darwinists have so much faith in the finger pointing game they've confused their naturalistic assumptions with conclusions. Naturalism or methodological materialism is a useful metaphysical presupposition for conducting a scientific experiment, but the circular reasoning to naturalistic conclusions from naturalistic presuppositions results in scientism, not real science. Science done correctly holds conclusions tenuously because scientific truth is rare. If a hypothesis cannot be falsified by experiment, it is not subject to the scientific method. This means all scientific conclusions can potentially be proven wrong by a future experiment or new evidence. Certainty is as unlikely as a miracle for a real scientist.

So what does this have to do with the age of the earth? The Bible gives specific ages of every person in the line of Christ from Adam until the Babylonian captivity, including at what age they begat their next in line. We have secular dates for the captivity. Do the math. A few people could have dropped out of the biblical genealogies, but not billions of years. This puts the Bible in conflict with Darwinian scientism which is the scientific dogma of our day. If the Bible truly is God's Word, we'll eventually discover the Bible is right. The Darwinists are already in retreat. A new breed of scientists is turning the tide with compelling ideas like Intelligent Design. Truth will prevail.

So, does the age of the earth really matter? I gave up worrying about it. What worries me more are people who unwittingly or even consciously adopt atheistic presuppositions in their worldview because they are afraid of looking foolish or being "unscientific" in their viewpoints. So I ask, on what are you going to anchor your beliefs?

(1) an omniscient, omnipotent, and unchanging God and his revealed Word, or
(2) fallible human scientists who change their mind frequently?

Seems like a no brainer to me. If your worldview is not based on a solid biblical foundation then informed by science, I would suggest you have little hope for discovering true reality. Scientific understanding fluctuates, but God is eternal. When Christians and even non-Christians get this backwards, discovering truth is much more difficult if not impossible.

For further reading: Falsifiability and the Meaning of Genesis One

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Big Bang Bunk

I was googling around for information on another topic when I came across a web page written by Pastor Ken Silva which states:
The Big Bang theory, in it's simplest form, teaches that within a vacuum, a series of elements eventually interacted in such a way, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 billion years ago (and this time frame keeps "evolving" backward itself), that they exploded into the universe that we can now see.
The BB theory does not say the universe exploded into a vacuum, but this is a common misapprehension of people who do not understand the theory. A vacuum exists, yet the BB theory says the universe sprang into existence from a singularity out of non-existence. This is surprisingly identical to the creation ex nihilo explanation of origins we find in Genesis. Ironically, this is a much better argument for fiat creation, the very point Pastor Silva is apparently trying to make!

Additionally, Pastor Silva makes a parenthetical straw man comment claiming BB proponents argue for an increasingly old universe. This is patently false. Prior to the BB theory most educated people thought the universe had no beginning (i.e. that it was eternal). In fact, the BB theory was so offensive to naturalist scientific sensibilities that physicists tried to explain it away with ideas like the Steady State Theory. However, the preponderance of evidence has blown away these competing theories leaving us with the very interesting idea that the universe did indeed have a beginning.

Current scientific thinking dates the universe at a relatively young ~14 billion solar years, at least 25% younger than what the pastor portrays his adversaries as claiming. Pastor Silva's accusation is contrary to the actual claims of science which makes him look disingenuous or ignorant. I trust this man is a better pastor than scientist! Perhaps his error is from ignorance (which is excusable), so I emailed Pastor Silva with the hope he'd correct the errors on his web page.

We Christians really should do better in presenting the truth if we hope to win the hearts and minds of intelligent, thinking people. At the very least we should be honest. I'm hopeful the good pastor will agree and revise his web page.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Jeopardy of Biblical Illiteracy

One of my favorite TV shows is Jeopardy, the perennial quiz show. In the Double Jeopardy round yesterday in a category called "Get your 'B.A.'" the $1600 clue was this:

In John 3 Jesus said, "Except a man be this, "He cannot see the kingdom of God."

The quotes in the category title mean the answer will start with the letters B and A. None of the contestants even buzzed in! The answer is obvious to any true Christian. If you don't know the answer, I challenge you to find out. Your eternal life is at stake.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Truth about the "Wasted" Vote

Have you ever voted for a candidate who wasn't your top choice simply because you didn't want to "waste your vote" on someone who couldn't get elected? I have. I didn't feel good about it, and the "other guy" won anyway. I was scared the opposition was going to win (and they did), but I didn't want to be guilty of putting the "enemy" in office. I voted to win even though a 3rd party candidate who truly represented my views was on the ballot.

In the next election cycle I did the same thing. I voted for a major party candidate I didn't really like, but this time he won! It was a hollow victory. The elected official enacted legislation I was totally against. How could I complain? I voted for him. I would have paid more attention if the "enemy" had been in office, but the party sympathetic to my views snuck in legislation under my radar while someone "friendly" was in office. Even when I won I lost. I got so fed up I dropped out of the political process for a couple of election cycles about 20 years ago. When I started voting again, I started voting on principle. Here's why.

I believe a lot of Americans are like me. They want to care, but they feel disenfranchised due to experiences like mine. Part of the problem is the utterly illogical “conventional wisdom” about wasting your vote. This little aphorism says it all:
Voting just to beat the other guy,
Is a vote that tells a lie!
Not only did I believe the wasted vote lie, I was deceived into telling a lie when I voted for candidates that didn’t represent my views.

Here's how voting to win backfires. Many libertarian minded folks vote Republican. What does the Republican Party do to reward them? They make policies to win over moderate liberals. Similarly, many people who resonate with the Green Party vote Democrat. So, the Democrats ignore them and make policies to win over moderate conservatives. Either way, we voters don't get what we truly want, the two party system remains entrenched, and WE THE PEOPLE continue to have lousy choices at the ballot box.

The two party system uses fear tactics about the “other side” to maintain their respective power bases. If you vote for the popular candidate in either of the two main parties out of fear of losing, the optimal strategy for your party then becomes one of IGNORING you completely. Since your vote is already in hand, party leaders can concentrate on moving the platform AWAY from your positions in order to court votes from people who totally disagree with you. This is the "big tent" at work. It removes all accountability from party leadership and disrupts the free market of ideas in the political process.
Politicians don't need your approval,
so long as they have your vote!
Voting is like spending money in the marketplace of ideas. It is the currency of your political stewardship. If millions of people keep buying something they don't like, it misleads manufacturers into making more bad product. It is simple supply and demand. The self-correcting process in the free market of ideas breaks down when demand is not accurately measured at the ballot box. If you "lie" about what you want by voting for someone who doesn't represent your views or to keep the "enemy" out of office, the free market information of your vote is lost. Alternatively, if you vote for what you really want, that information becomes part of the economy of ideas, and builds demand for candidates that will represent your views.

Can we really expect our politicians to honestly represent us if we aren't honest with our vote? If you want more honesty in politics, start by being honest with your vote. Your one vote is impotent in turning the results of a national election, but it represents your approval of some set of principles. Voting for what you disapprove to avoid something worse isn't winning. In fact, it is worse than losing because you are indicating support for principles with which you disagree. Not only do you waste your vote, you desecrate it.

Voting conveys information about what you believe. Concern with winning or maintaining power over standing on principle results in compromise by those in office and by those electing them. Using your vote to support the candidate whose principles match yours most closely, particularly if this is a 3rd party or "long shot" candidate, SENDS A MESSAGE to the leaders in the two main parties.

I don't want to waste my vote, so I vote on principle. Real winning does not come by winning elections. Real winning comes from upholding the principles in which you believe. If I must apologize for the candidate I vote for, or his record, to justify my positive vote, then I have used the ballot box to tell a lie.

Our republican form of government, a representative democracy, means the elected officials we elevate to high office are morally accountable to the platforms and policies they pledged to represent. By voting to win rather than voting on principle we are destroying our republican form of government. But, if you vote on principle, your vote is NEVER wasted. Get over the fear of losing. Vote for what you believe.