Rick Perry Loves Babies

A friend passed this along the other day, and it's a poorly written screed of a rant which doesn't exactly deserve an answer. On the other hand, it exposes to full light arguments many other make much more guardedly, so I'm going to have at it anyway.

The short version is that liberals don't want to deal with consequences, especially natural ones and especially consequences of sex. While Ms. Farris takes a passing swipe at the record of the abstinence-based "sex education" programs Perry has championed (ineffectual both because she clearly doesn't care about the issue of teen sexual activity, and because the only source she gives admits there's not enough knowledge to base a conclusion on), her main point is – guess what? – a huffy defense of what's been ironically labeled "reproductive rights". Which rights are otherwise known as abortion and indiscriminate birth control, which it's imagined the government should somehow pay for. Never mind that the government's never officially and en masse done anything like that until Obama did his thing. Now it's done, Perry possibly undoing that measure would be a violation of these rights. Wait, what?

(And Ms. Farris, that "DIC" you talk about? If Perry were elected and created any such institution, with the current mood of the Republican party he'd lose half his support – or haven't you heard about the Tea Party and limited government?)

I mock, I summarize. Here's a fun one: the article doesn't even mention the decision that most concerns most Republicans, the HPV vaccine debacle. Me, I've heard other sources question whether the vaccine works as well as it should, whether he violated Texas' constitutional procedure, and so forth, and that makes me a little leery. But Perry pushed this women's health initiative through in the face of his (Republican) legislature which in fact overturned it. Bad idea? Maybe. But where's the narrative about Perry courageously standing up to his party to do something for women?

...Yeah, I didn't think so. Apparently all that matters any more to the feminist left is the right to kill children.


On the "Christian Nation"

Let's say there is a person who knows the Absolute Truth about how the world should be run. Let's say he thinks he has a good chance to shape the world – or at least his own town, state (or province), country – in that image. Let's say that he believes even if he can't accomplish his own goals entirely, his efforts will at least yield an improvement.

The above paragraph describes everyone who has honestly held a political opinion, ever. Everyone. Ever. Can we accept that much?

Now a favorite modern bogey-man is the idea that the "far right wing of American politics", whatever it calls itself at the moment and whatever it says its goals are, wants to impose a "Christian nation" scenario on the United States. In this rhetoric, the phrase "Christian nation" suggests, not merely that the nation as constituted pursue morals and policies consistent with a Christian ethos (which, for the record, is what most Christians in politics want, and the majority would likely be satisfied even with a consistent natural law ethic), but that the "Christian vote" wants to reconstitute America as a direct theocracy – or at best, a caricatured medieval-style polity where the church says what goes.

On any consideration, that caricature falls to pieces. Even the most hide-bound traditionalist Christian recognizes that this goal – even if any significant number actually have this goal – would falter on the simplest question of, "Which church?" The 1st Amendment was written to prevent that sort of authoritarianism. What the First Amendment doesn't say, however, is that an opinion is politically invalid just because it is religiously based. In fact, it protects the right to express your opinion: and bearing in mind the time period of writing, we have to realize that what the Founders were primarily protecting was religious, and religious political expression. Even if there were a vast conspiracy of loonies proposing to establish the rules of order of the Southern Baptist Church (or whatever) as the law of the land, they're completely allowed to say so: just vote them down.

As I mentioned, however, that's not what anyone – okay, almost anyone – is proposing. Politically active Christians, like anyone else who applies their beliefs to politics, think that their ideas are the best ones to put into practice. At the same time, almost all Christian politicians – it might even be fair to say especially Christian politicians – believe in working with the system of government as it is. If this means political movements largely made up of Christians want a "Christian nation" then we have to apply the same logic to other movements. Liberals want a "liberal nation". Neo-cons want a "Neocon nation". And so on and so forth. Communists want a "Communist nation".

If the ideas these groups advocate are goofy ideas, expose them as goofy ideas. If Christian ethics are goofy – I obviously think they're not, but then I'm Christian – then attack the ideas of the Christian ethics themselves. Debunk Christianity and its morals, if you can. But don't act as though it's ludicrous that Christians think Christian ethics are good for everybody: that's a logical fallacy from the ad hominem family. "Christians want an essentially Christian law code," is neither news nor a good reason to vote for or against such a code, any more than, "Homosexuals want a sexually free law code," is unusual or reason to vote one way or another on the subject.


Thoughts from Hebrews: Principles of the Faith

'Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, or the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." - Hebrews 6:1-2 (KJV)

This passage comes immediately after a passage in which our author rebukes the Hebrews for still being stuck on basic principles "when... ye ought to be teachers", and the famous contrast of those who feed on milk and meat. The first five chapters (as we now read the text) have been occupied with glorifying God and his salvation offered through the work of Christ, as well as hammering home the necessity of salvation beyond Moses, and Christ's fulfillment of the prophecies.

From here, the writer goes on to contrast in great detail the Mosaic covenant and Christ's new covenant, building to the crescendo of his message, which is that we now walk by faith, but have received the promise in Christ's death and resurrection, and we are therefore more certain of its fulfillment.

I see these verses as a transition: instead of the "negative" of the first section – all was not fulfilled in Moses, so look to Christ – the latter portion of the book of Hebrews has a positive message, that God has worked the same way, calling for faith, in all His dealings with us; and that we now are recipients of the final manifestation of His grace.

More immediately, however, I am intrigued by the short enumeration of "the principles of the doctrine of Christ".

[The Greek here (sourced from Perseus) reads τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγον, rendered in the Vulgate as inchoationis Christi sermonem, "the teaching of the beginning/foundational/first-laid things of Christ" (inchoationis appears to be a late Latin irregularity from incoho, "to begin"). The Greek original naturally has the same meaning, although ἀρχή in other contexts can be rendered rule or power as well – and while I hesitate to quarrel with generations of scholars, in some ways the translation "the doctrine of the dominion of Christ" – either referring to Christ's rule, or conceiving the Church as "the dominion of Christ" – might seem to fit nicely with the message of the author of Hebrews, although he does focus most on the priestly work of Christ, rather than his kingship.]

These are immediately referenced again as "the foundation", detailed in six items broken into three groups.

First, "repentance from dead works" and "faith toward God". In the context, the "dead works" refers clearly to what is elsewhere called "the righteousness of the law" – that is, men's own efforts to save themselves. This message of repentance and belief is clear and acknowledged at the heart of the Christian truth.

Last, "resurrection of the dead" and "eternal judgment". Again, these two doctrines are part of the eternal Christian message; as in the Creed, "...He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead... [I believe] in the resurrection of the dead".

But in the middle we have, "the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands". That baptism is a Christian sacrament has always been taught and accepted, as well as that the doctrine of baptism is important, to the point it has before divided the Church.

Less clear is the inclusion of "laying on of hands" (Greek ἐπιθεσεώσ χειρῶν, Vulgate inpositionis manuum, there is no difficulty here in the translation). Immediately a number of possibilities come to mind: the initial reception of a new believer; ordination to the clergy; the special apostolic gift whereby (cf. Acts 8) certain gifts were transmitted by laying on hands; or finally the intercession for the sick as initially recorded in James. In light of the surrounding phrases, though, it seems most likely that it refers to reception into membership: we then have a parallel structure where each set has a beginning (repentance, baptism, resurrection) and a fulfillment (faith, church belonging, judgment), that also parallels the overall structure of the epistle. Calvin also promulgates this argument, interpreting the laying on of hands to refer to the reception of covenant children.

Other less august persons take issue. Coffman touches on the subject, and identifies the laying on of hands with the apostolic gifts, using this to inveigh against the traditions of the hierarchical churches. Many other recent commentators seem to agree with him. Stedman agrees with Calvin for the most part as to the "message" of the text, but is content to note the various possibilities and the Judaic heritage of the practice. Most convincingly contrary, Guzik mentions another possibility, that the six elements are in fact not elements of the Christian faith, but initial ideas that both Jews and Christians would agree on: this fits equally well with the overall structure of the letter, and would explain an oddity.

To the modern Christian, or at least to me, it is a little strange to find that the Lord's Supper is not given a prominent place in this list of fundamentals, given our own arguments and divisions on the subject. Guzik's hypothesis would explain the exclusion. On the other hand, it is not really necessary, because an alternate explanation is equally plausible: the Communion receives far less prominence in the New Testament than it does in our modern ecclesiastical debates. Beyond the Institution, is is treated in any detail really only once, in I Corinthians. The reason seems to me clear: since even in that passage little examination is given to the actual question of what precisely happens, I deduce that, even as Communion is practiced today in all Christian churches, so even more so there was little question on the subject. Further, the modern difficulties arise largely out of questions of linguistics and precise description: such questions seem to have mainly arisen, on all topics, after the Apostolic Age.

What I also find odd is the effort – starting, as far as I can tell, with Calvin – to take the second phrase I have been examining with the first, as an appositive. While clearly a grammatical possibility, it would seem, from my perspective, unlikely. Linguistically, the only possible indication that a triple parallelism is not intended is the use of "τε" in the second phrase instead of "καἰ". The doctrinal argument, following Calvin, seems stronger: that if the second is not appositive, then we have as necessary to the doctrine of Christ – that is, salvation – some thing beyond repentance and faith. At the same time, it has to be admitted that in fact baptism is not identical with faith, even if it is an act of faith; and the New Testament, even Hebrews immediately after this passage, is full of warnings against those, presumably baptized, who fall away from the faith. Or again, as we find in the Great Commission: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark. 16:16, KJV).

As well as the small parallel movements from beginnings to fulfillment, however, there is a full progression throughout the six items. We can find here a description of the Christian life: from repentance to faith, faith to baptism, baptism to life in the church, life to resurrection (through death), resurrection to judgment. It seems to me not too much of a stretch to add an unstated seventh item: the eternal rest of Heaven.


Some Quick Corrections

I've been posting on CONVPOL lately, and I want to address a few points here so as to not add to an already outrageously long response, or detract from the main point. The post in question is here, and Kyle says a number of things which seem unnecessary, or even badly in error:


I mentioned briefly that Kyle's ideals are very close to the Marxist "from each... to each..." formulation. Kyle admits this himself; I admit it is essentially the goal of any society. The difficulty starts because people don't, never have, and don't seem inclined to ever comply with the "from each" bit. Conservatism says give 'em what they earn; liberalism, largely, wants to give them the "to each" anyway. I'm side-tracking here, but I just wanted to point out that describing a thing accurately doesn't necessitate a defense in detail like Kyle gave.

Obama The Leftist

This one's a little trickier. President Obama is not a vegan, PETA-endorsing, alternate-power-is-the-only-good-thing leftist. But in the American political calculus, his determination to follow leftist – that is, liberal Democratic – policies put him about as far left as you can get while still being even vaguely in the main stream of American thought.

"Effectiveness" of Leftist Presidents

If you want to demonstrate that conservative ideology is a wrong, you need to do more than point out that you disagree with it. We know that already. You also need more than your "effectiveness" argument. Great – FDR was better at instituting liberal ideals than Reagan was at establishing conservative ones. We get that. Mao was more efficient at getting his way than the Kuomintang, too.

List of Accusations
With conservatives in power, the military industrial complex tends to rapidly grow, legislation making lists of banned behaviors (books, religions, abortions, medicines, organizations, etc.) appear[s], and even more legislation is passed to specifically allow previously unallowed behaviors (death sentences, guns in the workplace, etc.).
This is pretty much nonsense. Yes, the biggest agitation to ban things in recent history has been to ban abortion, which is murder. If you don't like the word, what do you call something which is, at the very least, by scientifically unassailable facts, the destruction of a unique human organism? There can be and should be no apology for any attempt to ban murder. But after that, two can play the accusation game. The next biggest political crusade has been against "hate speech" – and that's a liberal cause that treads dangerously close to transgressing on the right of freedom of speech. It's to the point where few comparisons that even mention race can be made publicly without accusations of racism flying, no matter how incidental or true the point made.

But these specific accusations are silly too:
  • Allowing gun ownership and carrying is consistent with low-regulation conservatism, what do you expect? (It's not like it really adds to risk, either - if anything, the opposite.)
  • The death sentence was regarded as an effective deterrent and just punishment for virtually the entirety of human history. In terms of human rights logic, it's an established line of argument that involvement in certain crimes forfeits societal rights, including life. Many conservatives accept that, or believe the death penalty acceptable for religious reasons, or both.
  • The "military industrial complex" is a thing of dubious definition, and seems above politics. If Bush I had Iraq, Clinton had Kosovo. If Bush II had Afghanistan, Obama has Libya.
As for banning books and religion? I have never heard of a conservative trying to ban anything more than immoral books (whether rightly so considered or not) from a school – which seems eminently sensible, and not a Federal matter at all. Under banning "religion", that's been a liberal crusade lately: no prayers in school, no Ten Commandments in public buildings, etc. If you can back that one up I'll be disturbed, but it seems little more than a wild accusation with, at best, fault on both sides.